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Students at the Center

Engaging All Students for College, Career, and Civic Success

Using effective, student-centered approaches to engage every student regardless of skill level and prepare them for college, career, and civic success.

Rebecca E. Wolfe
Associate Vice President
617.728.4446 x226
rwolfe@jff.org
@rewolfeJFF

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Students at the Center, a Jobs for the Future initiative draws attention to the importance of engaging each student in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed for success in college and a career. The nine research papers that launched this work also can be found in the edited volume, Anytime, Anywhere: Student Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers (2013), which is available from Harvard Education Press. In fall 2013, Students at the Center launched a second aligned and integrated effort to coalesce and make accessible the evidence base on effective learning strategies and deeper learning outcomes. This undertaking is particularly geared towards building knowledge in formats that policymakers can draw upon to keep deeper learning outcomes front and center as they engage in the real-time debates and decisions that will determine the effectiveness of our schools in creating a highly competent and productive workforce and engaged citizens for the 21st century. Learn more about the deeper learning series >

The papers are currently organized under the following topics: Application in InstructionAssessment, Competency Education, Education TechnologyEquity and Diverse LearnersLearning TheoryRethinking ReadinessSchool Improvement. Also, available is a complete summary of the Students at the Center Research Series.

Application in Instruction 

Curricular Opportunities in the Digital Age

DAVID H. ROSE AND JENNA W. GRAVEL

This paper explores how new digital technologies can be used to design curricula that are flexible enough to adapt readily to individual differences. The authors propose that universal design for learning—as the confluence of advances in the neuroscience of human variability and in multimedia technologies—can create an “ecology for learning” which provides rich, perse, student-centered learning pathways for all students.

Teachers at Work—Six Exemplars of Everyday Practice

BARBARA CERVONE AND KATHLEEN CUSHMAN

Taking the reader inside six high schools widely regarded as exemplars of deep student learning, the authors unpack teaching practices and school structures at the heart of student-centered learning. Findings reveal commonalities among the schools, especially in allowing teachers to hone their craft through “daily acts of invention.”

The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning

CHRIS DEDE

To compete in today’s global, knowledge-based, innovation-centered economy, young people must go beyond a high school diploma and acquire not just academic knowledge, but interpersonal and interpersonal capacities. That is, they must engage in deeper learning. As schools shift away from traditional education models in favor or providing deeper learning environments, they are required to replace their outdated technology practices and implement a new infrastructure to support student learning. This report explores how partnering deeper learning strategies with effective technology designs allows for greater educational success.

Deeper Teaching

MAGDALENE LAMPERT

Most high school students are accustomed to learning in two ways: by listening to the teacher and by reading books and other texts. These familiar ways of learning work for them so long as their teachers demand only that they grasp and remember the given content. However, if the goal is to help students learn in more intellectually sophisticated ways, then teaching and learning will have to look quite different. In this paper, Magdalene Lampert provides a close, detailed description of “deeper teaching,” referring to the kinds of instructional strategies and moment-by-moment teaching decisions that enable students to learn deeply. She concludes by describing the kinds of early-career guidance and supports that teachers will need in order to understand what deeper teaching entails and put it into practice.

 

Assessment

A New Era for Educational Assessment

DAVID T. CONLEY

Among education researchers, there is a growing consensus that college and career readiness depends on not just academic knowledge and skills but on a wide range of social and developmental competencies, as well—such as the ability to monitor one’s own learning, persist at challenging tasks, solve complex problems, set realistic goals, and communicate effectively in many kinds of settings. Yet, most U.S. schools continue to use standardized achievement tests, focusing exclusively on reading and math, as their primary means of gauging student progress.

In this paper—the first in Students at the Center’s new Deeper Learning Research Series—David T. Conley, well-known for his influential research on college readiness, argues that the time is ripe for a major shift in educational assessment. State and federal policymakers should reconsider their over reliance on standardized tests, he argues, and they should embrace the use of multiple measures that, in combination, provide much deeper and more useful information about students’ readiness to succeed after high school.

Assessing Learning

HEIDI ANDRADE, KRISTEN HUFF, AND GEORGIA BROOKE 

Student-centered assessment is a vital underpinning to student-centered learning approaches. This paper examines five defining qualities of student-centered assessment and underscores the importance of student-centered assessment as part of a balanced system of formative, interim, and summative assessments that, taken together, provide useful detailed information to inform learning, instruction, decision making, and policy.

 

Competency Education

The Past and the Promise: Today's Competency Education Movement

CECILIA LE, REBECCA E. WOLFE, AND ADRIA STEINBERG

Competency education is attracting significant interest as a promising way to help meet our national priority of ensuring that all young people are ready for college and careers. In competency-based schools, students advance at different rates, based on their ability to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives. Teachers provide customized supports to help propel everyone to proficiency.

This paper—the first in Students at the Center’s new Competency Education Research Series—lays a foundation for assessing the potential of competency-based models, grounded in an exploration of the outcomes from previous like-minded efforts. Recent research and theory from the learning sciences shows that a personalized approach to competency education may help better prepare all students from all backgrounds for deeper learning and for life after graduation. New information technologies are making it feasible to try these strategies on a large scale. Putting in place an equitable system necessitates navigating the many—but far from insurmountable—political and implementation challenges facing personalized competency education.

Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles

MATTHEW W. LEWIS, RICK EDEN, CHANDRA GARBER, MOLLIE RUDNICK, LUCRECIA SANTIBAÑEZ, AND TIFFANY TSAI; RAND EDUCATION AND JOBS FOR THE FUTURE

Equity is both a central goal and fundamental value of competency education. Competency-based approaches are designed to promote equity by preventing students from falling behind or staying behind. In practice, however, poorly implemented competency-based programs could inadvertently increase inequity—in opportunities and in outcomes. This second paper of Students at the Center's Competency Education Research Series examines equity concerns in competency education through the lens of family income, exploring the effects and implications, as well as proposing potential mitigations.

 

Education Technology 

The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning

CHRIS DEDE

To compete in today’s global, knowledge-based, innovation-centered economy, young people must go beyond a high school diploma and acquire not just academic knowledge, but interpersonal and interpersonal capacities. That is, they must engage in deeper learning. As schools shift away from traditional education models in favor or providing deeper learning environments, they are required to replace their outdated technology practices and implement a new infrastructure to support student learning. This report explores how partnering deeper learning strategies with effective technology designs allows for greater educational success.

Curricular Opportunities in the Digital Age

DAVID H. ROSE AND JENNA W. GRAVEL

This paper explores how new digital technologies can be used to design curricula that are flexible enough to adapt readily to individual differences. The authors propose that universal design for learning—as the confluence of advances in the neuroscience of human variability and in multimedia technologies—can create an “ecology for learning” which provides rich, perse, student-centered learning pathways for all students.

 

Equity and Diverse Learners 

Literacy Practices for African-American Male Adolescents

ALFRED W. TATUM

Focusing on African-American males, the author describes how current school literacy practices and policies are overly generic and miss the mark.  Placing student-centered learning in the context of race and gender, this paper reviews literature on factors that impede reading achievement, provides a socio-historical perspective for advancing African-American male literacy, proposes a framework of literacy instruction, and discusses implications for research, policy, and practice.

Latino/a and Black Students and Mathematics

ROCHELLE GUTIERREZ AND SONYA E. IRVING

Using new perspectives on mathematics as a cultural and social activity and new research on learning outside the school, the authors ask readers to rethink the problem of mathematical achievement for all students, and for Latino/a and black students in particular. The paper argues that doing so will help those students connect how they learn in the classroom to their lives outside of school, and help reduce the “achievement gaps” that exist in our current educational system.

Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles

MATTHEW W. LEWIS, RICK EDEN, CHANDRA GARBER, MOLLIE RUDNICK, LUCRECIA SANTIBAÑEZ, AND TIFFANY TSAI; RAND EDUCATION AND JOBS FOR THE FUTURE

Equity is both a central goal and fundamental value of competency education. Competency-based approaches are designed to promote equity by preventing students from falling behind or staying behind. In practice, however, poorly implemented competency-based programs could inadvertently increase inequity—in opportunities and in outcomes. This second paper of Students at the Center's Competency Education Research Series examines equity concerns in competency education through the lens of family income, exploring the effects and implications, as well as proposing potential mitigations.

Deeper Learning for Students with Disabilities

SHARON VAUGHN, LOUIS DANIELSON, REBECCA ZUMETA, AND LYNN HOLDHEIDE

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs now requires states to fully disclose the precise steps they will take to ensure better outcomes for students with disabilities. This new requirement can aid educators in implementing effective practices for providing deeper learning opportunities for these students. With the proper supports in place, such as research-based instruction that encourages supportive teaching practices, students with disabilities can meet the goals defined by advocates of deeper learning. These evidence-based instructional practices have the added bonus of benefiting all students, with and without disabilities.

Equal Opportunity for Deeper Learning

PEDRO NOGUERA, LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND, AND DIANE FRIEDLAENDER

The quality of instruction for low-income students and students of color is increasingly becoming a concern in the United States. This report calls for fundamental changes in curriculum, assessment, and policy to ensure equity among students regardless of socioeconomic status. Access to a more rigorous curriculum for underserved students can bridge gaps by equipping students with the deeper learning skills they need to be college ready. The report proposes that implementing student-centered practices throughout school systems can provide all students with continuous opportunities to practice 21st-century skills through high-quality instruction and deeper learning.

The Implications of Deeper Learning for Adolescent Immigrants and English Language Learners

PATRICIA GÁNDARA

For roughly 50 years, the federal government has been committed to supporting students who are recent immigrants and/or non-native English speakers. However, policymakers have not managed to agree on the types of services needed and how best to deliver them. In this report, Patricia Gándara argues that students who are immigrants and/or English language learners often exhibit strengths that monolingual, non-immigrant children may not have, and which policymakers should view as important assets to be cultivated. Moreover, the strengths that ELLs and immigrants bring with them to school tend to be well aligned with the goals of deeper learning.

 

Learning Theory 

Mind, Brain, and Education

CHRISTINA HINTON, KURT W. FISCHER, AND CATHERINE GLENNON

What does brain research tell us about how we learn and how learning, in turn, shapes the architecture of the brain? What is the connection between the stress of poverty and the impact of emotions on learning? To answer such questions, this paper draws on recent brain research and research in cognitive science, highlighting the positive impact of student-centered learning approaches.

Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice

ERIC TOSHALIS AND MICHAEL J. NAKKULA

What motivates students to engage in learning and achieve academic success? The authors synthesize research on achievement motivation, school engagement, and student voice, concluding that the more educators use student-centered approaches to reinforce student agency, the more motivation and engagement are likely to rise.

 

Rethinking Readiness

Let's Get Real: Deeper Learning and the Power of the Workplace

NANCY HOFFMAN

Educators today assert that “college and career readiness” should be the goal for every high school student, but “career readiness” is too often an empty tagline. What does it mean to be ready for a career? In this paper, Nancy Hoffman argues that, in a period when very few teens have access to jobs, high school experience must incorporate gradual exposure to the workplace. Learning to work and learning about work are major milestones for adolescent social and cognitive development. If deeper learning is the end, then work is a powerful means. The United States needs to make visible the strong models of high schools incorporating work-based learning, and establish policies at the state leve and federal levels to scale and support them.

Civic Education and Deeper Learning

PETER LEVINE AND KEI KAWASHIMA-GINSBERG

This report proposes that the turn toward deeper learning in education reform should go hand in hand with a renewed emphasis on high-quality civics education. Not only does deeper learning have great potential to promote civic outcomes and strengthen our democracy but, at the same time, civic education exemplifies deeper learning, in that it provides students with challenging, collaborative, and engaging experiences. The report addresses evolving contexts for civics education and suggests a shared agenda, calling for new approaches in teaching civics that involve deeper and more collaborative learning, take better advantage of advanced technologies, are assessed in more authentic ways, and pervade the entire high school curriculum.

The Why, What, Where, and How of Deeper Learning in American Secondary Schools

JAL MEHTA AND SARAH FINE

For growing numbers of education advocates, the imperative is not just to help much greater numbers of students to succeed but to help them learn in deeper, more sophisticated ways than in the past. Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine put the deeper learning movement in historical context and describe their research into schools that are attempting to embrace the goals of deeper learning for all of their students. The paper concludes with suggestions for re-envisioning the industrial model of public schooling inherited from the early 20th century in order to build an educational system that supports and sustains deeper learning.

 

School Improvement

Personalization in Schools

SUSAN YONEZAWA, LARRY MCCLURE, AND MAKEBA JONES

Personalization in secondary education supports student-centered learning and takes place through a variety of relational structures, strategies, and interventions. This paper examines how enhanced adult-youth relationships lead to increased student engagement, youth development, and academic performance. It highlights the particular importance of personalization efforts for at-risk populations and nontraditional students, and explores technical aspects of implementing personalization in schools.

Changing School District Practices

BEN LEVIN, AMANDA DATNOW, AND NATHALIE CARRIER

School districts have an important role to play in opening the door to the implementation of student-centered learning approaches and ensuring that these practices improve student achievement. Noting an absence of references to student-centered learning approaches in a subset of high-performing districts, this paper details seven key district characteristics to support innovative approaches in general, and student-centered learning approaches in particular.

How School Districts Can Support Deeper Learning: The Need for Performance Alignment

MEREDITH I. HONIG AND LYDIA R. RAINEY

School district leaders nationwide aspire to help their schools become vibrant places for learning—where students have meaningful academic opportunities and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Historically, though, school district central offices have been ill-equipped to support such ambitious goals. A new wave of research suggests that central offices have a key role to play in creating the conditions that make deeper learning possible, and they can do so by making deliberate efforts to align the work of each and every part of the school system to a set of common priorities. 

The Why, What, Where, and How of Deeper Learning in American Secondary Schools

JAL MEHTA AND SARAH FINE

For growing numbers of education advocates, the imperative is not just to help much greater numbers of students to succeed but to help them learn in deeper, more sophisticated ways than in the past. Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine put the deeper learning movement in historical context and describe their research into schools that are attempting to embrace the goals of deeper learning for all of their students. The paper concludes with suggestions for re-envisioning the industrial model of public schooling inherited from the early 20th century in order to build an educational system that supports and sustains deeper learning.

Effective Schools for Deeper Learning: An Exploratory Study

RAFAEL HELLER AND REBECCA E. WOLFE

This report proposes one strategy by which to strengthen the nascent research base on deeper learning’s implications for high school improvement. Specifically, it describes an exploratory study designed to test the idea that a particular kind of whole-school assessment, involving site visits by teams of trained observers, can provide useful data about students’ opportunities for deeper learning. Further, it argues that this sort of assessment makes it possible to identify schools that—while unremarkable according to test-based measures of school performance—are particularly effective at teaching certain inter- and intrapersonal skills. In turn, this suggests a myriad of new opportunities to study and replicate best practices in teaching for deeper learning.

 

This Jobs for the Future project is supported generously by funds from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.