Student Achievement Opinion

Next Gen Learning in Action Is on the Move

By Kristen Vogt — July 25, 2019 7 min read
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Next generation educators tend to embrace change because it is the only response to continuous learning and growth. It is the only way to always provide what a changing student population needs as the world around us changes, too. It is with that mindset to embrace change that, this week, we mark the end of two years of this blog on Education Week and transition to a new home.

In Action

The community of educators who contribute to this blog have opened their classroom doors, their school buildings, and their district and charter offices and invited readers into the action. They have gone deep into their practice, with the goal of sharing forward, so other educators can learn about their work and build on it.

They offer readers a varied take on innovative approaches to learning, assessment, and student success currently underway in their schools across the nation. Young Whan Choi shared Oakland Unified school district’s new graduate profile, describing how it was developed and what opportunities it affords its community. In the nation’s oldest district in Boston, we learned about project-based learning at Boston Day and Evening Academy and building a culture of change at TechBoston Academy, among other innovative practices. St. Vrain Valley schools in Colorado introduced us to its districtwide robotics curriculum, and the school district of Philadelphia’s Workshop School invited us into a democratic, inclusive environment that provides real-world learning opportunities for its students.

Vista Unified school district in Southern California has walked readers through important practices that defines its collective approach to personalized learning—family engagement, the school principal as change agent, and creating a career superhighway. In a parallel series, the Thompson school district in Colorado brought you along its Seeing Is Believing tour, coordinated for the districts’ school leaders and other stakeholders to learn about emerging practices in their schools.

Our contributors have never had all the answers, but they are actively working on solutions to the most pressing challenges facing education. They write from their experience because they are committed to working together to collectively build the future of learning. Some of the most popular posts have focused on instructional strategies that support broader, deeper learning outcomes for students, like “Yes, We Can Define, Teach, and Assess Critical Thinking Skills” from Two Rivers Public Charter School in the District of Columbia, “Why Every Student Should Have a Mentor” from the Summit public schools in California and Washington, and “Getting to Know You: Learner Profiles for Personalization” from the Practitioner’s Guide to Next Gen Learning series from Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), where my colleague Amanda Avallone provided a roundup of learner profile tools and examples of schools across the nation using them. Others have gone deep into a specific aspect of learning or school redesign, like “Designing Rich (Math) Projects That Inspire” from The Modern Classrooms Project and “Schools Should Be Cathedrals of Learning” from Matchbook Learning.


Students have also lent their voices, insights, and experiences to help readers of this blog understand how transforming learning toward broader, deeper, and more relevant outcomes affects them personally.

Student Ricky Sierra wrote about her high school experience at project-based Da Vinci Schools in Los Angeles and how the strong relationships she had with teachers at her school helped her succeed. We also heard from 8th grader Jonathan Reyes at CICS Bucktown of Distinctive Schools in Chicago, who related what the transition to personalized learning was like for him. And a 4th grader at Trailblazer Elementary in Colorado Springs School District 11 described what it was like to create and teach a whole set of lessons to help her classmates learn to speak Spanish.

In a series of posts, a whole group of students at Vista High School contributed their views on redesigned learning opportunities, such as an interdisciplinary project that encouraged greater student autonomy, co-creating learning experiences with their teachers, and turning knowledge about an issue into local action in their school.


This blog has brought multiple perspectives to readers on a variety of aspects of next generation learning, including those related to equity and inclusion, gender and race, and cultural relevance. Phyllis Lockett of LEAP Innovations examined new approaches to K-12 education that give girls the chance to try, to fail, and to shine without seeing roadblocks as absolute barriers, discovering a way to create schools that empower young women to achieve their dreams, to lead, and to demand change when they see it as necessary.

In “Why Equity Has Been a Conservative Force in American Education—And How That Could Change,” Jal Mehta of the Harvard Graduate School of Education challenged readers to think about the negative impact of the field’s focus on closing the achievement gap, which limits our ability to transform schools into more purposeful, relevant, and engaging spaces for learning. And Shane Safir of Listening and Leading for Equity introduced readers to “Street Data"—real-time feedback loops rooted in the voices and experiences of students, staff, and families—to humanize the process of data-gathering in school and center voices at the margins of our schools.

Montessori For All’s Sara Cotner described how her Austin, Texas, school embraces Howard Fuller’s idea that “our job is to prepare children to transform the 21st century” by teaching children to handle freedom with responsibility and navigate lines of difference. And in “Keeping Students at the Center with Culturally Relevant Performance Assessments,” Maya Kaul of the Learning Policy Institute illuminated the work of three California school districts that are using performance assessments to promote cultural relevance; performance assessments can provide critical spaces for students to reflect on and share their personal stories and their identities as learners. And Thrive Public Schools explored the meaning of “neighbor” for a school while contributing to a web of support in San Diego neighborhoods.

Research and Big Ideas

The Next Gen Learning in Action blog centers on educator practice, and that’s how our community has considered relevant research: through a practitioner’s lens. Together, the community has explored how to apply the growing knowledge base about improving learning and success through innovative school designs, looking at studies like the RAND Corp.'s 2017 study of personalized learning implementation by examining key findings and what we wonder as a result; two studies of the implementation of the Teach to One: Math program from New Classrooms; and the Wisconsin Evaluation Cooperative’s study of personalized learning implementation in Chicago.

Contributors have also explored the big ideas that shape the practices of forward-leaning educators. This blog’s co-host, NGLC’s Andy Calkins, explained “The Three Great Truths at the Root of Next Gen Learning"—truths about what today’s students should know and be able to do (student success), how public schools can help by providing powerful, enduring learning experiences (learning), and how schools can accomplish that change (the change process). He also introduced an emerging practice of next gen change management described as “Transformation Science:" What’s envisioned for the students tomorrow must already be true for adults and schools today. Author Grant Lichtman introduced readers to similarly big ideas in “Six Big, Hairy, Inevitable Changes on School’s Horizons,” and Curtis Ogden of the Interaction Institute for Social Change examined “25 Behaviors That Support Strong Network Culture” as part of a series on networks for equitable learning.

On the Move Yet Committed to the Goal

We have the same goal today as we did when we started this blog: to provide a platform for educators to learn from and with each other, so readers and contributors together can lead the field to the future of learning. We could not have accomplished that without the genuine commitment of the contributing educators who have built this blog. We thank all of them for their ongoing efforts to not only transform learning but also share their practice, their advice, and their expertise with the field. And we thank you, readers, for your interest in transforming learning on behalf of the young people in our K-12 schools.

We came together under the Next Gen Learning in Action banner on Education Week, and fortunately our contributors are as committed now as when they first signed on. Andy Calkins will provide one more post to close out this blog. After that, you can continue to find the same kind of active, student-centered, national, research-to-practice writing from this same collective group of educators on NGLC’s website. To continue learning with us, visit www.nextgenlearning.org/resources and subscribe at www.nextgenlearning.org/mailing-list.

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The opinions expressed in Next Gen Learning in Action are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.