Building a Shared Vision

When we partner with learning communities – which may be a single school, a district or a state – one of the first steps we take is supporting the development of a shared vision.

Based on our experiences in schools and the research we’ve done around the conditions necessary for scaling personalized, competency-based learning, KnowledgeWorks believes an essential first step to this work is to craft, develop and sustain a community-wide vision for personalized, competency-based learning.

Community voice is key. By requesting feedback and insight from local neighbors, business owners, community developers, higher education partners, elected officials and parents, a learning community can build buy-in that extends beyond the school walls or the state house.

The Kentucky United We Learn council is bringing together diverse perspectives from across the state to rethink how they can create more vibrant learning experiences, accelerate innovation and engaging in meaningful collaboration. KnowledgeWorks is a part of those conversations.

“You represent a novel, exciting way for a state agency to engage with its state – to make sure that we’re receiving regular information, feedback, direction and advice,” Kentucky Education Commissioner and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass said when addressing the council. “You will help us keep the pulse of the state of Kentucky and what changes we need to make going forward.”

What a community hopes graduates will know and know how to do is at the heart of the vision. Each learning community is different, and building a vision with local and regional context in mind ensures that everyone sees themselves in the work – and builds a sense of shared accountability for achieving the vision.

When 200 educators, students, community members and policymakers gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada in October of 2022 to collaborate and share their ideas about the future of teaching and learning, they weren’t operating in a vacuum. They were building on months of conversations, focus groups and empathy interviews that sought to uncover the values, hopes and experiences of Nevadans in regard to education. Now they’re hard at work developing competencies and bringing a statewide Portrait of a Learner to life, ensuring that when Nevada graduates receive their diploma, they’re ready for what’s next.

A learning community’s vision is central to everything they do and everything they hope to accomplish. If you really want to change the system, a vision must be created by and lived throughout your community. State and district leaders can’t do this work alone, and neither can teachers. The entire community needs to lift up learning, support teachers and encourage students to learn both in and outside of school.

Only with a clear vision is a Portrait of a Learner possible. The Portrait of a Learner, sometimes called a Portrait of a Graduate, is a tool increasingly used by K-12 school districts to identify those skills, knowledges and dispositions their graduates will need to succeed in an uncertain future. From there, learning communities can identify meaningful measures of success, because what we measure matters – but so does the how and why behind those measures.

Megan Margerum, a third-grade teacher at Northern Cass in North Dakota, describes how the district’s Portrait of a Learner, which was developed based on the district’s vision, informs her practice.

“My passion is making sure that we are incorporating the Portrait of a Learner concepts at a young age,” said Margerum. “How can we incorporate these words into their day-to-day work – accountability, communication, adaptability, a learner’s mindset and leadership – and help them learn how they can show evidence? Kids as young as preschool can do that. It’s just so important because these are the things that they’re going to have to do, and be, and be able to show. It encompasses everything we need to be as a citizen in this community.”

No matter where you are in the development and implementation of your vision for personalized learning, we can help you.