Where should I start?

There is no single way to make the shift from traditional to modern education. There are multiple entry points that are based on what you already have in place. Have you developed capacity around performance-based assessment or project-based learning? Your next step might be creating consistency so that all teachers are credentialing higher order skills with the same level of expectation. Have you invested in blended learning so that your teachers are comfortable with workshop instructional approaches? Now you might want to strengthen how you help students develop their building blocks of learning. Though there is no recipe, there are key first steps.

  • Talk to your students and community. Every successful change process starts with empathy. Understand how your students, families, and teachers experience learning and the problems they see. Listen to their ideas and aspirations. This perspective will guide everything else. It also goes a long way in building trust and respect that you will need along the way.
  • Learn. Learn a lot. Learn about personalized, student-centered, competency-based learning. Learn about the learning sciences. Learn about equity-informed practices. Read, yes, but also visit schools, talk to experts, and explore.
  • Set a vision. There will be bumps and turns in the road. A vision is your north star as you navigate those changes. A vision inspires people to join you and keeps everyone moving in the same direction. Setting a vision doesn’t happen fast, and it doesn’t happen in isolation. Take time and engage your community in the process.
  • Focus on the student experience. You will have the option of starting lots of places. The best place to start is with students. Find an entry point that directly touches the core of learning and teaching. Always always always, start with students. They will also be powerful spokespeople.
  • Figure out continuous improvement. Whatever you do first, it’s not going to be perfect. Know how you will figure out what’s not working and adjust, and figure out what’s working and build on it. Get a framework or structures in place from the get go to help you reflect.

Questions to Consider

  • What insight have you already gathered from your communities? How else can you collect empathy data to understand their perspectives?
  • What do you already know about the learning sciences and modern education? What local expertise can you tap? What do you want to know, and how can you engage in this learning?
  • Who will need to be part of your visioning process? What will this process look like if it is truly inclusive? How can you purposefully integrate traditionally marginalized voices?
  • What do you know about the student experience in your school or district today? How can you craft a vision for what it might look like in the future? Who will you engage to do this?
  • What systems and structures to you currently have in place to support learning and continuous improvement? How can you build on what you have? What else will you need in place as you embark on an innovation path?