The Students at the Center Framework

The Students at the Center framework includes four research-backed tenets, or principles, for powerful teaching and learning, meant to ensure that all students develop the sort of high-level knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, careers, and civic life. Drawn from the mind/brain sciences, learning theory, and research on youth development, these tenets are overlapping and complementary. In combination, and when guided by a coherent and rigorous set of educational goals, they provide a strong foundation for the pursuit of deeper learning:


  • Learning Is Personalized:

    Working together, educators, parents, and students customize instruction as much as possible to students’ individual developmental needs, skills, and interests. Students develop connections to each other, their teachers, and other adults that support their learning.

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  • Students Have Ownership Over Their Learning:

    Students understand how to get “smarter” by applying effort strategically to learning tasks in various domains and content areas. They have frequent opportunities to direct and to reflect and improve on their own learning progression toward college and career ready standards with the help of formative assessments that help them understand their own strengths and learning challenges. Students take increasing responsibility for their own learning, using strategies for self-regulation when necessary. Students also support and celebrate each other’s progress and experience a sense of commitment and belonging to the learning group. (Closely related terms: student voice and choice, student agency)

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  • Learning Takes Place Anytime, Anywhere:

    Students have equitable opportunities to learn outside of the typical school day and year, and outside of the classroom or school, often by using digital technologies that allow them to study and complete assignments at any location and at any time. In short, the school’s walls and schedules are viewed as permeable. (Closely related terms: blended learning, project-based learning)

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  • Learning Is Competency-Based:

    Students move ahead based not on the numbers of hours they spend in the classroom but on their ability to demonstrate that they have actually learned the given material, reaching key milestones along the path to mastery of core competencies and bodies of knowledge (often represented by the phrase “learning is the constant, time is the variable”). Tasks and learning units might be individual or collective, and students have multiple means and opportunities to demonstrate mastery through performance-based and other assessments. Further, each student must be provided with the scaffolding and differentiated support needed to keep progressing at a pace appropriate to reaching college, career, and civic outcomes, even when unequal resources are required to achieve a more equitable result. (Closely related terms: proficiency-based learning/education, mastery-based learning/education)

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