Designing Learning

 The learning—student, staff (professional), school (organizational), and systemic (including the learning of stakeholders)—critical to all schools’ success is the focus of CEBE’s work in Designing Learning.

Beginning with Designing Learning for Students, CEBE works to assist schools, networks of schools, and school systems to clarify:

  • how the learning standards to which they are working might best be expressed in a daily curriculum that reflects the knowledge, skills (through a skills matrix), and understandings that it has been agreed all students should possess;
  • how teachers might most successfully prepare their work to ensure that their students understand, meet, and exceed current learning expectations for the 21st Century
  • how a school- and classroom-based assessment system that complements the assessment requirements of the district and state might be most effectively built and used
  • how administrators and teachers can create a coherence in their everyday practice that emphasizes the importance of engagement in learning, purposeful learning, key thinking dispositions, and creativity, as well as the mastery of essential skills

In Designing Learning for Staff, CEBE shapes its work around the different contexts in which staff work on a daily basis. It draws upon the most recent evidence available in designing professional learning strategies that both build capacity and develop confidence. Drawing upon the experience of content-focused coaching, the work provides staff with the tools they need to redesign and activate their students’ learning at all grade levels and in all content areas. In addition to embedding much of this learning in the daily work of staff, it also designs well focused online learning opportunities as well as occasions on which staff can work face-to-face with colleagues who face similar challenges. CEBE’s Strategic Networking Initiative provides highly successful opportunities for staff working in different locations to learn from, as well as contribute to, the experience and expertise of colleagues working elsewhere.

Designing Learning for Schools focuses on the systems, strategies and skills that enable schools to grow as organizations, especially systemically, and to become highly effective in their daily work. This work includes a strong emphasis on developing high performing teams, and on how schools can build the systems that are essential to enabling all staff to perform to their full potential.

Designing Learning for Systems focuses on how school systems can add sustainable value to the work of schools, most especially through ensuring that schools have the autonomy to make the day-to-day decisions critical to the success of their students. Autonomy is not considered as a reward for success but rather as a critical precondition for it.

Underpinning all of these levels of learning is set of approaches which guide CEBE’s work—collaborative strategies, connective learning, formative assessment, inquiry-driven learning, purposeful learning, and thinking dispositions.

  • Collaborative Strategies: Collaborative Strategies enable students, staff, schools, and systems to learn successfully not only as individuals but also as members of teams and networks. Developing collaborative intelligence is facilitated through dedicated collaborative time, students, staff, and schools developing their capacity for collaboration, and co-inquiry techniques.


  • Connective Learning: achieving coherence across all of the learning in which an organization is engaged is at the heart of Connective Learning. The principles that shape and drive the learning of students should reflect those that shape and drive the learning of staff, of the school as an organization, and of its key stakeholders.


  • Formative Assessment: Formative Assessment is very closely linked to learning and instruction. These assessments are the deliberately planned strategies embedded in daily practice which not only support learning but also provide information about the level of understanding of each learner and his or her misconceptions, strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can be used to design effective follow-up learning activities. Examples of formative assessment strategies range from approaches that indicate when leraners are encountering difficulty, through careful and thoughtfully prepared questioning and purposeful discussions, to diverse feedback practices and to assisting learners in managing their own learning successfully.


  • Inquiry Driven Learning: Inquiry Driven Learninginvolves a disciplined approach to learning that extends the knowledge base of staff through their involvement in bringing to light practice-based evidence. In turn, this evidence shapes the abandonment of practice which has not led to growth and achievement; the improvement of practice which has already demonstrated a potential to enhance learning, and the addition of practice which the evidence indicates will lead to successful and sustainable learning.


  • Purposeful Learning: PurposefulLearning involves designing learning with a clear purpose—a purpose with depth, one that deals with the concepts, big ideas and thinking strategies that are needed for sustainable success as well as for functioning successfully with unknown or unfamiliar tasks.


  • Thinking Dispositions: Thinking Dispositions can be broadly defined as tendencies that support particular patterns of intellectual behaviour:
  1. the disposition: to be broad and adventurous
  2. the disposition toward wondering, problem finding, and investigating
  3. the disposition to build explanations and understandings
  4. the disposition to make plans and to be strategic
  5. the disposition to be intellectually careful
  6. the disposition to seek and evaluate reasons
  7. the disposition to know how to learn—to be able to think about your own learning.

For further information, please contact us at CEBE