A high-quality education must be equitably available to all students without exception. School systems need to improve learning outcomes that offer multiple pathways to success. Graduating from high school is no longer seen as the end but as a beginning. We must fully prepare every student for work and life success. This responsibility includes equipping students with the skills to tap into their passions with a clear and deliberate path to careers. The effective transformation from the traditional one-size-fits-all system to a robust learner-centered learning environment takes intentional effort and courageous leadership among district and school leaders. Educators need to transform their schools using collaborative, creative, and courageous practices that connect education with labor in authentic and tangible ways.
The nation’s schools need to prepare all learners for jobs and careers that in many cases have yet to be developed. Traditional education models that emphasize a teacher-centered delivery of instruction are no longer enough to prepare learners for a technology-driven world. The global COVID-19 pandemic forced school and district leaders to reevaluate nearly all instructional methods and practices while bringing equity in access and opportunity to the forefront. Simultaneously, innovation has become a requirement for both relevance and sustainability. Innovative instruction must also be context-specific, of high quality, and rigorous. With that, however, “the field” (school and district leaders) are often being called to do much more with limited, and often decreasing, capacity and resources.
In the words of Jonathan Swift, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” It’s no secret that a dynamic vision for learning, whether provided in person, remotely, or some combination thereof, is a first step in creating the types of experiences today’s modern learners need to thrive far into their future. As districts wrestle with their vision for teaching and learning while remaining focused on the shared values of the school community, an authentic and versatile process is needed to meet the unique needs of any community.
As such, Future Ready SchoolsⓇ (FRS) and the Readiness Institute at Penn State have created the Future Ready Learner Design Process, which utilizes a human-centered design (HCD) model. HCD is a highly creative, people-oriented approach to solving relevant problems and developing action-oriented solutions. This approach builds deep empathy for participants and maintains a humanistic mindset. The process generates a myriad of essentials and human capacity to innovate for better results in our school systems.
Designed as a critical element in a district’s continuous improvement planning effort, the Future Ready Learner Design Process emphasizes excellence, innovation, and equity in school design. Whether envisioning the skills a kindergarten learner should have after their first year or defining the portrait of a “future ready graduate” within their district, the Future Ready Learner Design Process utilizes human-centered design to provide a highly creative, people-oriented approach to solving relevant problems and developing action-oriented solutions within a school or district.
The Future Ready Learner Design Process guides school communities in answering the critical question, what are the essential skills, knowledge, characteristics, and dispositions that learners need to possess to be future ready?
Building on the work of the LUMA Institute and its LUMA System of Innovation, the Future Ready Learner Design Process provides a powerful toolset broken into three HCD steps: Looking, Understanding, and Making. As the process is applied, school community participants begin naturally to model key innovation development strategies, such as collaboration, questioning, teamwork, and iteration, while simultaneously building empathy amongst participants. Future Ready SchoolsⓇ and the Readiness Institute at Penn State believe that empathy is at the core of innovation and problem-solving in our schools and our districts, especially in a post-pandemic world, and thus must be at the heart of the Future Ready Learner Design Process and aims to deliver student-centered strategies with direct connections to:
- Workforce development and jobs
- Equitable outcomes for all students
- Evidence-based continuous improvement
By using the Future Ready Learner Design process, your district can:
- cultivate the voices and values of each participant in a meaningful and visual way, in the following areas: characteristics, knowledge, skills, and dispositions;
- leverage input, through a democratization process, to indicate the beliefs and values of each participant, thus promoting agency for all who are involved;
- identify new practical and relevant essentials that intersect distinct categories through the utilization of the FRS framework and Future Ready Learner Ideastorm matrix;
- collaborate to build a shared understanding of how the Future Ready Learner Design Process will function within a team’s system and structure;
- create a customized Future Ready Learner design that represents the goals of your school’s or district’s community;
- develop a shared vision of a Future Ready Headline; and
- leverage the Future Ready Learner Design Process to move from essentials to actions.
The Future Ready Learner Design Process leverages the various voices, talents, and values of each member of the team (teachers, administrators, learners, parents, community leaders, etc.) and, through a four-step process, empowers them to collaboratively look, understand, and make their unique version of a Future Ready Learner that their school and district communities value and aspire to develop. There is no end to the ways this tool can be used or the products that may result from the use of this tool for continuous improvement planning.
- Radar Diagramming: Help individuals and teams plot items according to personal significance and value.
- Dot Voting: Conduct a vote to reach a consensus about the key areas of focus moving forward.
- Future Ready Learner Showcase: Design a customized Future Ready Learner profile that represents the values and goals of your school and district communities.
- Moving from Essentials to Action:
- Action 1: Future Ready Learner Ideastorm Matrix: Identify new practical and relevant essentials that intersect distinct categories through the utilization of the FRS framework.
- Action 2: Future Ready Why?, How?, and What? Matrix: Create an outline to build a shared understanding of essentials in an orderly manner.
- Action 3: Future Ready Headlines: Develop a shared vision of a Future Ready Learner success story.
The process is free and can be used as a standalone resource during leadership meetings, professional learning sessions, strategic planning efforts, school board meetings, or parent and community engagement events. Tips and suggestions are provided within the resource to help districts use the tool effectively. The FRS team is here to help; if you need additional support or onsite facilitation, please contact us.
As with any professional learning, planning is essential. The list below provides the steps necessary to prepare for the full or half-day session.
Workshop Duration Options
Half-day session: Focus on Steps 1–3
Full-day session: Focus on Steps 1–4
1. Design your team
Whether you have five team members or 50, it’s important that the group is diverse in nature and represents a variety of lenses from throughout the school community. Depending on the size of the group, scope of the work, and the desired profile outcome, teams are encouraged to be composed of the following: students, district-level leaders, principals, assistant principals, teachers, school board members, community members, and local business leaders. It’s vital that your team represent a variety of lenses and backgrounds from your community. We recommended creating groups of five to eight team members.
2. Gather the workshop materials (per group)
- Two pieces of Flipchart paper
- Voting tabs or stickers (3 to 5 per team member)
- Sticky notes (15–25 per team member)
- Black Markers (one per team member)
3. Review pre-workshop materials
4. Prepare printed documents for the workshop
The following materials should be placed on each group’s table for team members as a reference:
- Future Ready Radar Diagramming Template (Step 1)
- Key definitions (Step 1)
- Previous surveys of school and district, school or district data relevant, as needed (Step 1)
- Future Ready Learner Essential Actions Map (Step 3)
- Future Ready Matrix (Step 4 – Action 1)
- Future Ready Enablers (gears) (Step 4 – Action 1)
- Future Ready Why?, How?, and What? Matrix (Step 4 – Action 2)
- Future Ready Headline Template (Step 4 – Action 3)
5. Make a copy of the Future Ready Learner Process Workshop slide deck to customize.
Ready to Get Started
Now that you have the materials and the workshop outline, you are ready for Step 1: Radar Diagramming.