What is Learning Lab?

Welcome to Learning Lab VT

Vermont’s schools are home to some of the most innovative, passionate and skilled educators in the nation. And they’re opening up their classrooms to the world. Welcome to Learning Lab VT.

We’re all in this together.

You ever wonder whether you’re really up to the task of meeting your learners’ needs? We have.

Our learners — Vermont middle and high school educators — are in the midst of a monumental transition that, done well, will ensure that Vermont’s public schools deliver on their mission of excellence and equity for all our learners.

No pressure.

The change is complex; the climb steep. And the realization a few years ago that we might be stumbling at our jobs — making sure educators have the support they need to meet the challenges they face — made us wonder. What kind of professional learning experience could prepare educators to meet the noble expectations of Vermont’s Act 77 (personalized learning plans for all students) and Vermont’s Education Quality Standards (locally-determined, proficiency-based high school graduation requirements)?

What would it look like, and how would it work?

The Dream

Right away we knew the experience would have to model the very principles and practices Vermont educators are being expected to apply with their learners. With that in mind, we determined that the experience would be:

  • Personalized to meet the specific needs of each and every educator.
  • Proficiency-based to ensure all educators practice and develop the fundamental skills and mindsets expected of them.
  • Committed to the ongoing process of cultivating the kind of trusting learning community that inspires educators to open their classrooms, minds, and hearts to each other.
  • Blended with just the right mix of in-person and asynchronous learning opportunities so teachers can work at times and places of their choosing.
  • Student-centered, placing our educators’ students’ learning at the center of the experience, inviting them to take on a vital part of the experience.
  • Contributing to systemic capacity building underway in our schools and across all of Vermont.

A few years later (and a few hairs grayer), we’re now in our second year of co-teaching Learning Lab VT, our very best attempt to design and implement the learning opportunity we imagined. The results? Better than we imagined!

The Design

Learning Lab VT is a year-long experience that provides a cohort of educators the support they need to partner with their students and each other to conduct and publish research that answers the questions:

  • Why personalization?
  • What, exactly, are teachers and students doing in settings that are becoming increasingly personalized, and to what end?
  • How might our findings be helpful to each other, our colleagues, and the field of education in general?

Learning Lab VT is:

  • Personalized to meet the specific needs of each and every educators. Educators identify and pursue their own inquiry questions.
  • Proficiency-based, to ensure all educators practice and develop the fundamental mindsets and skills of student-centered learning. Educators use our learning scales to guide and track their learning.
  • Committed to a creating a trusting learning community so educators are game for opening their classrooms, minds, and hearts to each other and their students. Educators use a variety of technology (Flipgrid, Slack, Hangouts, website, blogs) to get to know each other and publish their inquiry questions and request / make visits to each other’s classrooms.
  • Blended with the just-right mix of in-person and asynchronous learning opportunities so teachers can work at times and places that work for them. This scope and sequence gives a good sense of the rhythm of the year and how we work when we’re together and apart.
  • Involve our educators’ students so they have a seat at the table. Each educator establishes a site-based Learning Lab team of students who play a range of roles.
  • Connected and contributing to the systemic capacity building underway across all our schools and the state of Vermont. All of our learners make Bright Spots & Belly Flops blogposts (here are a few samples) to formatively tell the story of their findings, and all of our learners choose contribute to systemic capacity from a Choice Board.

If you’d like to learn more, we and our learners would love to hear from you. Email Susan Hennessey (susan.hennessey@uvm.edu) or Bill Rich (redhouselearning@gmail.com)

 

Why schedule a visit?

Because this network of learning labs demonstrates what it looks like as teachers and their students co-create the kinds of learning experiences that make the challenging journey so worthwhile. Come take a look! Seeing — and chatting and doing — really is believing.