What makes a learning architect?

By Gavin Grift

In his book Creating the Schools our Children Need, Dylan Wiliam says it’s not enough to say a policy or program is ‘evidence based,’ unless you’re sure it’s likely to work in a particular district or area.

“This might seem obvious, but many educational innovations work in small-scale settings but when rolled out on a wider scale are much less effective,” writes the international researcher and prominent educational thinker.

Or, as he also notes: “Everything works somewhere; nothing works everywhere.”

Our professional development program, Teachers as Architects of Learning, based on the book of the same name, is also built on the theory that no classroom, teacher or student is the same. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development is also unlikely to be effective.

But what’s a learning architect?

Many teachers, perhaps because of the demands of the profession, teach content and hope that it sticks. But we believe learning architects also continue to develop their expertise on what constitutes learning itself.

In Teachers as Architects of Learning, teachers are supported to manage their own growth, by using different approaches and training to suit their unique needs, and those of individual students.

Teachers will design and apply their own learning experiences, which gives them a sense of purpose – and ultimately helps their students

Reducing ‘teacher lottery’

Our Teachers as Architects of Learning program helps answer the question: why doesn’t school work for every child?

In order to be truly successful, we know that the education system needs to reduce ‘teacher lottery,’ and the only way to do this is by helping teachers to develop their skills in a way that honours their individual strengths, challenges and contexts.

We believe that when educators are supported to identify their own growth potential, and take charge of their own journey, this also enhances their abilities to deliberately construct effective learning experiences for themselves and their students.

However of course it’s hard to prove how effective a learning experience is unless we know how to measure it.

So part of being an architect of learning is not only knowing how to put learning at the heart of every decision, but how to effectively measure impact through the collection of hard data.

Ideally, this becomes part of a ‘think, act, plan’ cycle that leads to less stress, better results for teachers and students, and more engagement all-round.

Why a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work

Just like their students, teachers aren’t created on a production line. Each teacher comes with all the variables, talents and quirks that make us human – including different expertise, life experiences and personalities.

And as we mentioned earlier, each classroom is also unique, in part thanks due to each school’s culture, location and the students within it.

So we believe that when it comes to professional development for teachers, it shouldn’t just be a matter of compliance, or ‘ticking the box’.

Rather, we need to give serious consideration to how best support the individual needs of teachers in the context they’re operating in. And more importantly, the learning needs of their students.          

By viewing ourselves, and our staff and colleagues as learning architects, we not only apply the best evidence-based strategies to help our students, but can also transform the entire culture into one that truly prioritises learning.

Keen to find out more about the Teachers as Architects of Learning program? Click here.

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