Where Place-Based Ed Fits Into NGLC’s Fields of Learning


As 2017 comes to a close, momentum continues to build towards next-gen models that embody a more personalized, more connected, and more relevant learning experience for all students. In this vein, Next Generation Learning Challenge just released the final two reports in their 12 part MyWays Student Success Series. The entire report digs deeply into the emerging next-generation learner experience and is a wealth of resources and connections, but what struck me as particularly relevant was their work on Fields of Learning and the Wider Ecosystem, and how these elements repeatedly point to the need to build learner engagement and agency in equitable and impactful ways.

These two elements of the research were particularly prominent in their 11th report, Learning Design for Broader and Deeper Competencies, which focused on three constructs to activate broader and deeper competencies: Whole Learning, Wider Learning Ecosystem, and Levers for Capability and Agency. As a preface to the report, the authors present a Field of Learning model that displays learner experiences on two axes of Bloom’s Thinking Skills and Real World Abilities in the current system compared to a next-generation learning system.

Of note is the location of Situated Learning – comprised of internships, community-based learning, project-based learning, etc. Learner experiences in this quadrant, which are at high levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy and real-world abilities, are also described well through place-based education approaches, and are supported through Teton Science Schools’ Framework for Place-based Education. Similarities to the Fields of Learning model are found in the Rigor/Relevance framework from the International Center for Leadership in Education (and are cited in Sheninger and Murray’s book Learning Transformed).

As personalized learning emerges as a means to increase success for all students, we at Teton Science Schools would also argue that a third axis, learner-centered, should be added to this Fields of Learning model. These models, described well by Education Reimagined, increasingly move from teacher and school-centered to learner-centered to increase engagement and agency for the learner. Student success in this field would not only be success at higher levels of Bloom’s skills and in real-world situations, but also where the learner would drive the building of these experiences. This is not an automatic outcome in the two-axis fields of learning model and must be intentionally scaffolded and practiced.

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The MyWays authors also describe the Wider Learning Ecosystem as a critical component of the learner experience. This ecosystem, captured as college-based learning, career-related learning and community-mediated learning, everyday informal and formal learning, and school-based extra-curriculars further define an expanding view of “school.” Combined with highly developed competency-based assessment systems, the Wider Learning Ecosystem serves to support a student moving out into the next-gen areas of the Fields of Learning. Additionally, it expands on the Teton Science Schools’ Framework principle Community as Classroom.

As we see schools like Iowa Big, One Stone, Place Network Schools, and a number of the XQ Super School winners, we wonder if “Community-Generated Learning” needs to be added, where the community itself generates the projects for students based on real need and authentic output that leads to positive solutions and improvements. We are excited to continue seeing schools and networks launch that put place-based education as one of the key learner experiences to increase authenticity, equity, agency and outcomes for all students.

For more, see:

Nate McClennen is Vice President, Education and Innovation at Teton Science Schools.

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Grace Belfiore

Delighted to get this feedback from one of the leading exemplars of place-based learning, Teton Science Schools. On your highlighting of the learner-driven aspect of experiences - absolutely! While not plotted as a third dimension on the MyWays Field of Learning (we found it best not address too much in one construct), this is one of the core elements of the whole MyWays Student Success framework. We believe all competence is the union of capability (knowledge and the understanding to use it in real-world situations) and agency (a deep and durable self acting to shape one's development and environment. See our "agency and capability circle" and more in our reports on Apprentice Adults (R5) and the Levers of Capability and Agency section of R11.

And on your focus on real need and authentic output: MyWays' conceptions of Whole Learning and Wider Learning Ecosystem in our Learning Design Report (R11) are particularly steeped in these, but also see further examples in the competency domain reports (Rs 7-10). We will be building out the Wider Learning Ecosystem further and would love to confer with Teton on that.


Erik Day

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Grace! Glad you enjoyed this write-up, and we'll make sure Nate sees your note.

Jordan P. Lippman, PhD

I have to criticize the use of Bloom's instead of a a more robust psychological model. At least it doesn't say learning styles anywhere :) besides that I really like this way of thinking about the design of an ecosystem.

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