We often talk about how we are in the middle of a phase of change in how we learn. However, we’re missing something crucial here. This change already happened. It’s already here. We lived it. For example, many schools and districts have made shifts to higher-leveling thinking, while integrating digital devices to curricula that has spring-boarded personalized and student-driven learning. To support this reality, learning environments require research, design thinking, strategic implementation and sustainability to constantly improve to serve students in relevant ways.

TrueSchool Studio is doing just this. In collaboration with Chicago Public Education Fund, TrueSchool convened 135 educators, who they call “EDesigners,” for the Summer Design Program (SDP14). Their goal: To create and implement transformational innovations in student learning for classrooms and schools.

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For five-weeks, EDesigners representing 40 schools from nearly every neighborhood in Chicago engaged in what accumulated to be three full days of ideation, separated by two, two-week team-facilitated research and development-focused intersessions. School leaders and teachers designed solutions focused on solving one of the following three challenges:

  1. How might we increase the number of students in STEM careers and college majors?
  2. How might we rethink the one-size-fits-all classroom in order to personalize learning and differentiate instruction?
  3. How might we ensure a successful transition from 8th to 9th grade?

For each track EDesigners were introduced to existing approaches, trained through an engaging design-process, and connected with experts for honing their concept.

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SDP14 unleashed the creativity and talent of educators to innovate as well as transformed how teachers think about their role. Stacy Stewart, Principal of Belmont-Cragin Elementary School said:

The steps we passed through during this project with the hands on scientific approach we used to gather information and analyze our theories opened the minds of our team members to change the status quo at our school. The work and experiences we have had – will result in changes at our school at the fundamental level.

23 of the 40 SDP14 teams were recently selected to further implement their innovative strategies with support from The Chicago Public Education Fund. $100,000 will be invested in pilots developed at SDP14. Teams who prove success will be selected to participate in an ongoing support program to continue innovating. Tom shared how weak incentives and a lack in sharing are barriers to innovation. TrueSchool’s programming is overcoming these barriers and demonstrates the power of authentic collaboration and teacher-led innovation to solve real problems.

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For more information on TrueSchool and school design, see:

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