DEEPER LEARNING NETWORKS SERIES developing a well-articulated vision for deeper learning—a vision

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  • D E E P E R L E A R N I N G N E T W O R K S S E R I E S

    OCTOBER 2019

    Big Picture Learning Spreading Relationships, Relevance,

    and Rigor One Student at a Time Kathryn Bradley and Laura E. Hernández

  • Big Picture Learning: Spreading Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor One Student at a Time

    Kathryn Bradley and Laura E. Hernández

  • ii LEARNING POLICY INSTITUTE | BIG PICTURE LEARNING

    The appropriate citation for this report is: Bradley, K., & Hernández, L. E. (2019). Big Picture Learning: Spreading relationships, relevance, and rigor one student at a time. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

    This report can be found online at https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/deeper-learning-networks.

    Cover photo provided with permission by Big Picture Learning.

    This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

    Acknowledgments

    The authors thank the network leaders at Big Picture Learning, without whom this case study would not have been possible. They also appreciate the teachers and leaders at Union High School in Nampa, ID, and Highline Big Picture in Burien, WA, who shared their insights and opened their classrooms during site visits. The authors are especially grateful to Loren Demeroutis, Andrew Frishman, Jennifer Ghidiu, Javier Guzman, Dennis Littky, Dana Luria, Eunice Mitchell, Carlos Moreno, Jeff Petty, Wilson Platt, and Elliot Washor for graciously sharing their time, resources, and thought partnership through the research and revision process.

    The authors also thank their current and former LPI colleagues Julie Adams, Linda Darling- Hammond, DeAnna Duncan Grand, Swati Guinn, Charmaine Mercer, Martens Roc, Peter Ross, and Caitlin Scott for their editing, review, and thought partnership. In addition, they thank Erin Chase and Aaron Reeves for their editing and design contributions to this project and the LPI communications team for their invaluable support in developing and disseminating this report. Without their generosity of time and spirit, this work would not have been possible.

    This research was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Core operating support for the Learning Policy Institute is also provided by the Sandler Foundation and the Ford Foundation. We are grateful to them for their generous support. The ideas voiced here are those of the authors and not those of our funders.

    External Reviewers This report benefited from the insights and expertise of two external reviewers: Deborah Meier, a cofounder of the Coalition of Essential Schools and founder of New York City’s Central Park East elementary and secondary schools and Boston’s Mission Hill School; and Rebecca Wolfe, the Vice President of Impact and Improvement at KnowledgeWorks. We thank them for the care and attention they gave the report.

    Document last revised October 15, 2019

    https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/deeper-learning-networks

  • LEARNING POLICY INSTITUTE | BIG PICTURE LEARNING iii

    List of Figures and Tables

    Figure 1 States With Big Picture Learning Affiliated Schools .........................................................4

    Figure 2 Big Picture Learning’s 10 Distinguishers ........................................................................7

    Figure 3 Big Picture Learning’s Real-World Learning Cycle and Internship Journey .....................9

    Figure 4 Big Picture Learning’s Five Learning Goals .................................................................. 13

    Figure 5 Big Picture Learning’s System of Professional Learning Supports ............................... 32

    Table 1 Demographic Composition of Students in Big Picture Learning Schools in 2016–17 ...5

    Table 2 Big Picture Learning Advisor Interview Experiential Activities ...................................... 29

    Table of Contents

    Executive Summary.................................................................................................................................. v

    Introduction ...............................................................................................................................................1

    Big Picture Learning’s Vision, Approach, and Evidence of Success ..................................................4

    Big Picture Learning’s Deeper Learning Pedagogy ........................................................................6

    Designing Schools for Interest-Based, Deeper Learning ............................................................ 14

    Advisor Competencies That Support Big Picture Learning’s Design .......................................... 14

    Essential Competencies for Big Picture Learning School Leaders ............................................. 17

    Evidence of Success ................................................................................................................... 18

    Sowing the Seeds for Success: Big Picture Learning’s Approach to Diffusion and Quality ....... 20

    Founding Big Picture Learning .................................................................................................... 20

    Collaborating to Build Community Investment and Support ....................................................... 23

    Implementing a System of Learning Supports to Ensure High-Quality Instruction ..................... 31

    Onboarding Staff to the Big Picture Learning Way ...................................................................... 33

    Learning Structures Throughout the Year ................................................................................... 37

    Professional Learning at School Sites ........................................................................................ 40

    Refining Learning Systems to Improve Design Implementation .................................................. 41

    Refining Network Structures to Support Quality and Diffusion ...................................................... 44

    Improving Pedagogical and Curricular Supports ......................................................................... 44

    Improving Infrastructure to Support the Network’s Approach .................................................... 45

    Conclusion .............................................................................................................................................. 50

    Appendix A: Methodology ..................................................................................................................... 53

    Endnotes ................................................................................................................................................. 57

    About the Authors ................................................................................................................................. 60

  • iv LEARNING POLICY INSTITUTE | BIG PICTURE LEARNING

  • LEARNING POLICY INSTITUTE | BIG PICTURE LEARNING v

    Executive Summary

    Big Picture Learning is a school network that is driven by a singular vision: to engage every student in individualized learning experiences that focus on their interests and curiosities. To this end, the network partners with schools and districts to transform teaching and learning environments in ways that ensure students will graduate from high school with the knowledge, relationships, dispositions, and abilities that make them more likely to thrive in college, career, and civic participation.

    In its network of approximately 65 schools across 26 states, Big Picture Learning encourages students to explore their interests through deeper learning—pedagogical approaches that develop students’ abilities to effectively communicate, collaborate, think critically, problem-solve, and engage in self-directed learning. These practices are captured in the network’s 10 “distinguishers,” or school features that are integral to the network’s approach and differentiate Big Picture Learning schools from other schools. High-leverage distinguishers include learning through interests and internships, authentic assessments and exhibitions, learning plans, postsecondary planning, and staff professional development. Advisory structures—in-school spaces in which students engage in independent and personalized learning under the guidance of an advisor throughout their time at a Big Picture Learning school—are also distinguishing features of Big Picture Learning schools. Through these structures, Big Picture Learning nurtures learning environments that are centered on students and their varied needs and interests. In doing so, they meet the holistic needs of a diverse student population and cultivate school cultures grounded in relationship building, personalization, and student voice.

    This report highlights how Big Picture Learning has instantiated its approach across varied settings. The report begins with a description of the network’s approach and how it designs its schools to implement deeper learning. The report then describes the systems and structures that have enabled Big Picture Learning to spread its learning approach in a high-quality manner. In describing these findings, the report highlights how Big Picture Learning and its leaders have consistently been responsive to communities and local conditions, allowing network-affiliated schools to take on a distinct character while m