OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

From Educator ===>>> To Learning Coach & Designer.

Re-imagining the educator's role and individual school's purpose.

Photo of Hi Howard
8 13

Written by

I am a.....

  • Collaboration of four current & retired educators and colleagues in the education sector.

Tell us about your idea

Change in Educator's Role

Given ubiquitous access to online learning, we envision a more human-centered role for educators. In their new roles, the majority of current educators (perhaps 75%) would spend significantly more time focused on the development of their students as individual learners and members of dynamic learning communities. Rather than working primarily on development and delivery of subject-matter curricula, they would function as Learning Coaches who facilitate, manage, and advise each learner’s developmental process. Their work would include:

1. Mutually working with each learner on navigation of their Common Core and Path Exploration pursuits;

2. Helping learners set goals, monitor progress, and demonstrate competency;

3. Conferring with families on learners’ well-being, progress, opportunities, and challenges;

4. Cultivating the skills and habits essential to individual achievement in the context of a thriving community;

5. Facilitating individual and group project experiences through which students engage with subject-matter content and authentic problem-solving.

Leveraging online tools, a minority of educators (perhaps 25%) would function as Learning Designers, focusing their time and energy on developing:

1. Longitudinal subject-matter curricula across multiple subject areas and knowledge/proficiency levels;

2. Strategies for cultivating essential skills and habits related to learning and working in various subject-matter areas.

Change in the Individual School's Role

Because online access enables learning experiences to move beyond the walls of a single school building, we propose that all of the Learning Coaches and Designers within a given region would function as one school - pooling their time and resources to provide more engaging and diverse learning experiences. In this regional model:

1. One Learning Designer has the ability to plan one learning experience for all learners in the region, and multiple Designers could collaboratively plan the learning experience for a very specific group of learners - creating both greater breadth and depth of learning than the Designers within a single school building could provide on their own. Streamlining curriculum/content development among Designers frees the majority of Coaches to work more directly with students on overall development.

2. Individual school buildings would be converted into the equivalent of localized learning centers, providing both a physical “home” for each learner (a place in which each learner connects/collaborates with peers and teachers) and a physical locale for subject-matter specialization. In this model, students could choose among multiple online learning specialties within different “schools” to pursue their curiosities and interests - such as, African History in one, Asian Art in a second, and STEM in a third.

Principles That Underlie our Idea

The following principles are the foundation for our re-imagined educational approach:

1. Focus on learning to learn - development of the skills as well as the habits of heart and mind - rather than subject-matter content.

2. Use subject-matter content primarily as the context through which learners develop the skills and habits of learning.

3. Earn advancement (“credit”) through demonstrations of competency rather than passing grades.

4. Design learning experiences using primarily a “hands on/minds on,” project-based approach.

5. Extensive reflection on experiences, both in progress and as completed.

6. Divide subject-matter curricula equally between: 

a) Knowledge, skills, and habits that adults have determined all learners should develop to some specified degree of competency; 

b) Ideas, information, and disciplines that adults have determined all learners should explore; 

c) Areas of knowledge, skills, and habits that each learner seeks to investigate and/or develop.

9. Authorize credit through non-”academic” learning experiences - e.g. internships/apprenticeships, jobs, and community service.

Concept Implementation Steps

1. Recruit several schools in a region that embrace this concept. We'd like at least one XQ school in the cohort (Compass is located in SW Denver). Our collaborative group has deep connections with schools in multiple Colorado regions through our current professional networks and relationships. 

2. Engage in a Human-Centered Design process to explore the concept's possibilities - discovering what needs of educators, students and parents it would meet and not meet and revise the concept accordingly.

3. Turn the concept into a prototype and seek feedback on it from broader parent communities, school districts, unions and state agencies.

4. Secure waivers from unions and state agencies.

5. Design a 3 year pilot implementation and continuous improvement plan.

6. Identify and secure a pilot leader and manager and begin pilot operations.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Using standardized tests to evaluate schools. Why – it exacerbates inequity & distorts educational purpose. Curricular emphasis on subject-matter content knowledge. Why – it takes precious time and energy away from development of essential skills and habits & undermines learners’ engagement. Age-based student cohorts and advancement. Why – it causes birthday-based inequities, especially in early years of schooling & undermines competency-based advancement. Schedules with more than 4 “class” periods in a day. Why – it re-enforces industrial model of schooling & undermines project- and interest-based learning. Schools larger than 400 students. Why – it promotes depersonalization & undermines development of learning communities. Daily homework. Why – it promotes inequities, does not foster learning & undermines meaningful work done by learners outside of class. Final exams for courses. Why – they are an inauthentic assessment of competency & undermine deep learning.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

As current and retired educators, we're been frustrated by an education system that is so stuck in the past and that holds onto antiquated concepts - like the educator's and school building' roles. We've seen some educators and schools look to the COVID-19 crisis as a way to let go of these roles to embrace others. That willingness to try out new ways of doing education gave us inspiration to sit down and develop this idea.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Denver, Colorado


Join the conversation:

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Congratulations Hi!

Photo of Hicham FILALI ZEHRI

I posted almost the same but less elaborated than yours

Photo of Jenn Scharf

Teachers as Learning Designers is the way forward. I'm starting a new venture with a similar purpose and this inspires me!

Photo of Michelle Blanchet

Love this idea! We're also doing similar work on promoting teachers as learning designers. Would love to follow along or connect. Here's our website and see if we have any synergies. All the best on your journey!

Photo of Karen Sorensen

Hello Hi,
When I saw your name on here I just wanted to reach out. The concept of the Learning Designer is great. When I developed my model for the 21st Thinker, this is were I was headed, to explain the how the different subject, technology, 21st Century skills and standards can be merged. Also, I love the idea of transformation of the old school model to function more like a "community center". I have thought even back at the Brown days, this is were this is how school should be viewed. There are some blessing that have come out of the Covid19 and I think the prescriptive on how education should look has changed. Many people now are become aware of some of just how it can look different. Great idea! Best to you and the boys. Karen

Photo of Hi Howard

Thanks for your feedback Karen. It's fun to dream of the possibilities! Hope life is treating you well.

Photo of Paul Kim

Hi! great to see you in this space - thanks for submitting this idea on behalf of your team. I am a big believer and hope you will refine your submission. The title doesn't quite represent the power of your idea so you might refine the title to emphasize the core point of your idea. Also, you definitely have explained your why? but I am wondering if you can share a little more about the how. Meaning, if we were going to scale your idea on TED-Ed or Sesame Street (2 current partners), what would it be called and what specifically would we ask a school to do?

Photo of Hi Howard

Thanks Paul. We reviewed your comments and made adjustments accordingly. Unfortunately, the 5,000 character limit is a bit challenging. Hope you're well.