I’ve been playing around with a simple model that I think provides a different picture of what the student learning experience at school can be. Admittedly, it’s in an early prototype stage so I’m expecting it to change over time. I’m calling this the Cone of Experience, which most likely will change too.
Before I explain what I have going on here, I’d like to explain the why. I’ve been interested for some time with the flow and outcome of school - especially high school. In my work as an educator designer, I’ve had the chance to be exposed to a number of high schools around the world - and almost everyone has a singular focus that their learning experience is based on.
Their focus is college and career readiness.
Before I go further, I’m not opposed to that. But I’m wondering what we can add to that or perhaps rethink/reshape what that looks like.
At graduation, or earlier, I’m looking for the launch points that set the stage for a person’s life. I think school, and an education, can be more than preparing students for success in English 101 or for simply going to work for someone(s) for the next 35 years. How can school help students find the launch points for their lives?
Here is how the model is built: the yellow dot to the left represents entrance into school, at whatever age. The multicolor circles to the right represent a multitude of launch points. On one side of the cone are the timeless components that shape the school experience -curriculum, instruction and assessment - that are realized through a student’s coursework (school-based). On the other side of the cone, are student-focused components that include their interests and passions that lead to discovery and exploration (choice-based). The cone may compress or widen depending on the age and need of students so the experience is a negotiation over time between the two components of the school experience.
The colorful pathways from entrance to launch represents a student’s individual experiential pathway. Each is different and follows a personal trajectory. A student’s pathway may flatten at some point in response to the need for a more directive type of experience and widen at another according to need for a more diverse and exploratory experience. In any case, the model suggests a highly personal approach to learning that shifts the expectations and reality of the two components: school-based and choice-based learning.
As a student gets older, and more capable, the cone flares to widen the potential composition of the experience.
What I’m interested in and what I thinks this means:
Multiple pathways of experiential learning lead to different launch points at graduation or possibly during school. The focus is to provide a launch to life, rather than some type of endpoint to high school (college, work, or military). The goal is to move beyond simply preparing a student for the next step of an expected sequence and outcome.
The diversity of experiences, which contribute to an individual’s pathway, potentially become more diverse over time and broaden to include community and world-based learning opportunities beyond the physical footprint of traditional school.
Experiential pathways are grounded by the time-honored foundational components of school (Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment) but what these mean will need to shift to support the development of the skills and dispositions that afford interest and passion-based learning .
Experiential pathways are shaped by a partnership between students and the school - and not by the needs of some outside agency or group- admittedly a colossal shift.
New, capable learning spaces support a greater level of engagement through experiential learning. You can’t do this sitting in a row in a steel-frame desk moving from subject to subject ever 50 minutes.
Pathways may take on different shapes over the timeline of learning in response to different needs, placing a new need for different assessment protocols.
The pathways of students may overlap and this promotes both the academic and social interactions required for the development of connections between students and their lives.
The pathways of all students become a braided timeline of experiences that reflect the learning culture of the school.
Educators shift from the modest role of facilitator to a generative role as an educator-designer.
How this scales across a large school or school district is a considerable challenge as is the necessary shifts required for the school-based components. How schools could or would address the choice-based elements of the model are equally formidable.
But, it would be interesting to continue to think this through and apply the concepts in the model to support reframing the educational experience.