How is the experience of students different in a modern school?

At the core, redesigning and redefining education are all about redesigning and redefining how students experience learning. To achieve broader outcomes, students have to experience a broader set of learning. It’s easy to say this, but what does it really mean? A key first step in any redesign process is knowing what you want the student experience to look like. To get clear, it helps to have a picture for what the student experience might actually look in a modern school, and to have this picture presented in plain, everyday language. The chart below describes how learning can look different. Descriptors include visuals (“I see”) and a student lens (“I hear”).

I see

I hear*

I see that students are safe, supported, and respected by their teachers and peers. I can see that teachers know who their students are and how they learn by the ways they interact and the data they use. I feel safe. I am willing to put forward my best effort and take on challenges because I feel like I belong. My school values my culture, the culture of my community and my voice. My teachers and my friends care as much about my success as I do.”
I see students are driving their own learning. They are making choices about how they learn and how they demonstrate learning with guidance from their teachers. Students seek the supports and resources they need to tackle any challenges. I get to learn about things that matter to me and I learn about them in ways that work for me. I know the support I need to be successful and how I can get it. My teachers help me learn the skills I need to take responsibility for my learning and exercise independence.”
I see students experiencing learning everywhere, not just in the classroom. They are doing work that applies to the world around them and they are learning through application. Students are actively and intrinsically motivated in their work. I am developing the skills to apply what I learn to real-world problems. I have opportunity to learn anytime, anyplace. I can take more time when I need it, and I can go deeper when I want to. I’m doing things I care about, and that are relevant to my future.”
I see each student on their own path. Students are engaged at the level of challenge that is right for them that takes into consideration prior knowledge and their social-emotional skills. They have the right supports at the right time to make progress toward proficiency. They are using feedback and data to self-assess and self-reflect. My friends and I are all on our own paths, and that’s ok. We are all smart, and need different challenges at different times. I get the feedback, instruction and support I need based on where I am on the learner continuum.”
I see students are moving forward when they are ready. They can request an assessment when the time is right for them. They have more than one opportunity to demonstrate their learning. My learning is measured by my what I know and can do. The class used to move forward when the textbook said to. Now we make sure that everyone has the time they need to really ‘get it.’ I can advance to the next level or go deeper into topics that interest me as soon as I submit evidence of learning that demonstrates my proficiency.”

Questions to Consider

  • How do your students experience their learning? How do you know? What data do you use to understand the student experience?
  • How does this student experience compare to your students’ experiences? Where are the points of connection? Where are the differences?
  • Which aspects of the student experience resonate the most with you? Why?
  • Which aspects of the student experience raise questions for you? What questions do you have?
  • Which aspect of the student experience are you most interested in exploring? Why is this your starting place? What more do you want to learn or understand?



*Adapted from Levers and Logic Models. This set of desired student experiences in competency-based schools is based on the contributions of the iNACOL/ CompetencyWorks Technical Advisory Group for Developing a Definition of Competency-Based Education in 2017. The Technical Advisory Group was made up of educators, researchers, state policy leaders and national organizations providing technical assistance.