LANDSCAPE: Changes in leadership, school reform initiatives, and instructional trends are frequent and common in traditional public schools.
BARRIERS: Changes that are mandated without context create instability, insecurity, and distrust between school faculty and administration. With a change in district and school leadership, support and mission alignment for deeper learning is also subject to change.
ENABLERS: Supportive, shared leadership and mission alignment enables educators to experiment with ideas that may deepen students' learning.
HOW MIGHT WE: Support administrators and teachers in balancing the power dynamic and contextualizing change? Create opportunities for teachers to be agents versus objects of change? Provide supportive opportunities for educators undergoing change in school mission and leadership?
LANDSCAPE: Students from low income families are the majority of students in US public schools (1). All public schools have students that are underserved, some have more than others. Students come into the classroom with a wide array of learning gaps.
BARRIERS: Wellness — physical, social, and emotional health — has a significant impact on a student’s capacity to learn. Teaching and facilitating deeper learning is significantly more complex and time-intensive for teachers when working with underserved students.
ENABLERS: Consistency and significant time for relationship building among students and teachers creates an environment of trust, which is foundational to collaboration. Additionally, adequate support — in and outside of school — is crucial to help address and foster wellness for students.
HOW MIGHT WE: Support schools in assessing and addressing the risks and needs of their student body, and providing adequate support and wraparound services to meet those needs? Incorporate student wellness and cultural relevance into academic assignments, to help students investigate and engage more deeply?
LANDSCAPE: Public school environments may be more or less conducive to deeper learning. Educators who are engaged, adaptable, creative, and student-centered in their approach are more likely to create opportunities for students to learn deeply — despite external constraints.
BARRIERS: Many teachers in public schools are simply burnt out. A teacher who is experiencing burnout prioritizes getting through the day and the content, and does not want to experiment with methods or be outshined by peers.
ENABLERS: Teachers who feel engaged and creative in their work may more easily adapt to both school reform and deeper learning. Teachers with elective classes may experience higher job satisfaction because of the flexibility with curriculum and content.
HOW MIGHT WE: Support teachers and administrators in self-care strategies? Boost educators' perception of and access to creativity?
LANDSCAPE: The vast majority of us — including today's teachers and leaders — were taught in an industrial-era model, in our own K-12 education and beyond.
BARRIERS: When at full capacity, which is frequently the state of being for teachers and leaders, they fall back on what they know — the decades of lived experience in a traditional model. Today's teacher training and professional development rarely creates opportunities for teachers to learn deeply.
ENABLERS: Teachers, administrators, and students benefit from being exposed to relatable schools that are creating opportunities for deeper learning. Additionally, dedicated support staff and time to experiment are methods to sustain momentum.
HOW MIGHT WE: Help teachers and administrators rethink professional development to incorporate and model opportunities to learn deeply? Expose teachers to tangible, relatable examples of deeper learning and create networks of interested educators in similar contexts?
LANDSCAPE: Public high schools exist within a larger ecosystem of stakeholders — students, teachers, principals, teacher's unions, college admissions officers, community members, superintendents, district personnel, policy makers, and more.
BARRIERS: Both low and high performing schools face pressure from stakeholders. There can be normal resistance from students and parents when there is deviation from a focus on test scores, further establishing an ecosystem of support for standards-based models.
ENABLERS: Educators who have strong connections with and input from stakeholders may be better able to navigate this normal resistance. Those who have a strong professional network may have greater access to deeper learning practices.
HOW MIGHT WE: Create supportive, on-going opportunities for educators to establish strategic, meaningful relationships with stakeholders? Provide opportunities for those who are interested in deeper learning to connect with one another?
LANDSCAPE: Public school districts regulate scheduling elements, including start time. Schools, teachers, and students are evaluated by districts, state agencies, and institutes of higher education based on standardized test scores.
BARRIERS: Regardless of their desire or will to do otherwise, teachers prioritize getting through content and preparing students for standardized tests. With limited time in a class, day, and school year, deeper learning competencies become a lower priority.
ENABLERS: When given some flexibility or support from the district or through a grant, administrators and teachers have time and incentive for fostering deeper learning. Administrators who incorporate "measurements" on ideal learner qualities in their students may help demonstrate value for teachers, students, parents, and colleges.
HOW MIGHT WE: Help public schools understand where they may have structural flexibility, despite where they rank academically? Connect administrators who have implemented with those who want to implement ways to measure learner qualities in their students?