Schools have autonomy to design the specific learning models, strategies, and programs they will utilize to achieve the five learning outcomes. No matter their chosen path, schools engage in initial professional learning to inform their work as well as the implementation of deep change management processes to develop vision and a strategic plan. Although schools experience a high level of autonomy around instructional design, there are common threads. In addition to District curriculum resources, there are five common ecosystem characteristics that are present regardless of the pathway a particular school embarks on. Those ecosystem characteristics are:
- Personalized Learning: In personalized learning environments, all learners get what they need, when they need it, and how they need it without barrier. Experiences are designed based on student driven evidence, interests, learning styles, both academic and non-academic strengths, gaps, and goals. Learners are organized in varying group sizes primarily according to their skills, needs, and interests. Educators have access the information needed to know individual students well enough to adjust plans. There is no “one” approach in personalized learning, rather access to a variety of methods, people, time structures, environments, and tools to best meet specific learner needs.
- Competency-Based Systems: In competency-based learning environments, students move from level to level based on demonstrated proficiency, get feedback against competencies, and track their own progress with support from their teacher. Monitoring student progress against competencies instead of seat time gives educators a better measure and more nuanced understanding of what students know and are able to do based on the Colorado Academic Standards.Competency-based systems include equitable, rigorous, personalized learning for all, leading to readiness for college, career, and citizenship.
- Co-Created Opportunities: In co-created learning environments, students are proactive and make important decisions about their progress toward learning goals. Educators and students work together to create learning experiences. Students work with each other, teachers, and other resources in and outside the classroom to develop goals and determine the best way to achieve the goals as a team.
- Safe and Healthy Environments: In safe and healthy learning environments, significant attention is paid to knowing the social-emotional needs of students and teaching them healthy ways to think, work, and play together. All children need to be in an environment that’s secure and supportive, where they are comfortable taking risks. Students can’t learn when they are hungry, suffering, or lonely. To inspire students to become empathetic, curious, and healthy participants, educators must build cultures that foster self-awareness, confidence, and strong mental and physical health in students. Regular empathy building at all levels is critical to this component.
- Time, Talent, and Technology Enabled: Time, talent, and technology enabled learning environments all inform learning, but are secondary to it. They are important elements, but they shouldn’t drive learning. Instead, time, talent, and technology are flexible and dynamic tools to enable learning environments that lead to desired student outcomes.