Innovative Student-Centered Learning Strategies that Support Learning Sciences

Future Ready Schools® (FRS) partnered with Columbia University’s National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools & Teaching (NCREST) to identify successful strategies for implementing innovative student-centered instructional approaches. NCREST reviewed more than 100 empirical research articles that evaluate and describe key federal programs, school models, and approaches toward innovative teaching practices that personalize and deepen learning in schools. That research yielded a summary of 6 essential elements of a strong evidence-based problems of practice that advance systemic school-level student-centered learning approaches.

From that research, the FRS Learning Science Working Group identified 8-12 key strategies that address the research-based problem of practice with tangible real-world solutions that can be deployed in schools across the nation today. 

Aligned to the Future Ready Schools Framework, each implementation guide was written and developed by practitioners who were identified, recruited and vetted as experts in their area of focus. The guides were created to help all educators get started implementing learning science by providing access to ideas, tips and tricks, guiding questions and specific strategies grounded in the research.

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Explore the essential elements to help solve your next implementation challenge!

Personalized Professional Learning

A well-structured set of materials, tools, and resources to support instruction and professional development

Gear: Personalized Professional Learning 

Professional learning must align with the policies and practices that schools embrace. Teacher professional learning and evaluation should include opportunities for collaboration, piloting of new ideas, grading, and reviewing student work with built-in feedback from students and fellow teachers. Professional growth plans for teachers and administrators should inform professional learning. Where feasible, professional learning should engage educators across schools and districts through traditional networking, social media, professional learning communities, and organized school visits. Leaders should embed professional learning needs and opportunities within the school schedule and within everyday work.

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Clear, measurable, benchmarks and goals and related data systems to track progress

Gear: Data and Privacy  

Effective data systems with multiple academic and nonacademic data sets support a continuous cycle of school improvement and modernization. To use data effectively, a school must emphasize data literacy in its professional development plan and design easy-to-use data reports. This requires personnel or consultants with expertise to help teachers interpret data and use it to improve learning outcomes. Leaders create and refine a data plan that explains how schools and educators collect and use data and includes robust privacy policies and protocols that protect student data and privacy.

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Strong relationships and trust among all stakeholders

Gear: Community Engagement 

Modern school leaders must engage parents and community members to prepare students for college or careers understanding that there are multiple pathways into postsecondary learning. In middle and high schools especially, student voice, agency, and involvement in their own learning become essential to long-term engagement and success. Educators create opportunities for ongoing dialogue and input from parents, students, and the community. They work with community leaders and school counselors to identify key workforce development opportunities and connections for students and create ways for business leaders and organizations to support the school’s workforce plan. 

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Supportive leadership

Gear: Collaborative Leadership 

Articulating a clear and concise vision and philosophy for student learning within the school and aligning this vision with district and state policies creates a cohesive school culture. It also explains the “why” of the vision and the necessity to modernize schools to gain support for the change. Having a supportive leader and leadership team is essential in building capacity among the staff and community to ensure long-term sustainability. Leaders must be conscious of various cultural, racial, and socioeconomic differences in planning for the academic success of all students and provide the resources and time to help everyone collaborate to meet the needs of student groups. 

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 Productive school culture

Gears:  Personalized Professional Learning and Collaborative Leadership 

Promoting collaboration, individual and collective accountability, and ownership supports innovation and risk taking among staff members. Leaders should establish opportunities for teachers and students to have a voice and show agency by letting them lead activities, share needs, and provide input into the school modernization process. A positive school culture reveals the strengths of staff members, students, parents, business and community partners, and leverages their input while building positive working relationships and enthusiasm for change. Everyone participates in working toward the common goals and vision. 

Budget-Robust

Authority and flexibility to support implementation and adaptation

Gear: Budget and Resources and Robust Infrastructure 

Districts, leaders, and schools need flexibility and autonomy to ensure student success. It is important to create a supportive environment where the work of an initial dynamic leader can continue beyond the tenure of that leader. Additionally, districts and schools need strong relationships and open communication with all members of the community to ensure the viability of change into the future. District leaders need to conduct a yearly line-by-line review of the budget to flag potential areas of savings in contract services. They also should consider zero-based budgeting practices to reallocate and reconsider school-level budget priorities annually. When reallocating budgets to adopt new and effective resources, school and district leaders must align budget choices with learning standards and objectives and priority areas for improvement.  By regularly evaluating the effectiveness of initiatives and programs, leaders can eliminate inefficient resources. Additionally, technology planning must align with curriculum, assessment, and professional learning goals; support critical school operational needs; and ensure that privacy policies remain current