Learning Pathways

What do learning pathways look like as young people move across learning contexts in pursuit of their interests in school, at home, in libraries, community centers and online?

About The Speaker(s)

Kris D. Gutiérrez is Professor of Literacy and Learning Sciences and holds the Inaugural Provost’s Chair at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research examines learning in designed learning environments, with particular attention to students from non-dominant communities and English Learners.

Anna Smith is a doctoral candidate from the Department of Teaching and Learning in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. She directs research and programming at EXCEL Academy, a university-community collaborative that brings youth from the Bronx to NYU, and faculty from the university to the Bronx to participate in an alternative college preparatory program.

Paul Allison is an English Teacher at New Directions Secondary School in New York, as well as a Liaison for the New York City Writing Project. He is also the leader of YouthVoices.net - a site for conversations around youth digital media learning - and Teachers Teaching Teachers - a weekly podcast as part of EdTechTalk.

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (06:25) If we're talking about learning pathways, we're having a conversation about how learning is a journey, not a destination. And I think we're hyper-focused, in education right now, on those destination markers: our curriculum, our standards, our assessments...what counts as learning is being confined by that.
  • (12:27) The young men, even if they were granted institutional power to make decisions about what they did, they were really directing their learning in relation to their aspiring literate identities: who it is they wanted to be, and what they wanted to do as writers. That really influenced which practices they took up from school and not-school.
  • (18:47) ...Youth that we work with: they want to learn and we can trust that they are learning.
  • (21:41) One of my cautions is that "learning pathway" suggests a kind of linearity, a kind of straightforward movement as if learning is smooth and uncomplicated and not recursive at all...How do convey this wonderful messiness and complication with learning?
  • (25:16) How do we ratchet up learning for these youth who've been in these spaces that keep them in reductive forms of literacy learning, remedial kinds of programs?...How do we use these learning pathways and interest-driven learning kinds of concepts so they can be part of this wonderful opportunity of Common Core?
  • (30:17) Parents are very strategic and careful about organizing possible futures for their children...well, poor families from low-income backgrounds are also very interested and strategic but they have less resources to leverage...Learning should be the organization of possible futures.
  • (34:54) How do we start to leverage everyday and school-based practices to really develop rigorous kinds of learning?
  • (38:36) We ask kids: what are 10 deep questions you have about yourself, and what are 10 questions you have about the world? And what we find when we do that...is that they come up with amazing things...
  • (42:25) It sounds like we're talking about certain pathways that are already established that youth go down...we're not talking about "pathways" as established pathways, but pathways that don't exist that they trailblaze.
  • (46:47) Much of the interest in badges is to have something that is not so narrowly defined in terms of steps along an achievement pathway, and have something that can actually spread more broadly and let people move...along different kinds of self-determined, rhizomatic pathways.
  • (50:02) We've been spending a fair amount of time trying to make room for the "emergent possible" in the learner's life...A lot of those families (who may have come up earlier when Kris was talking) would say "I would like to know how I can help my child or how (a learner might say) I can negotiate from where I am to somewhere I would like to be?"
  • (52:50) I think we want to think about multiple pathways, not just one. Our youth live polycultural lives; they're polylingual. So, we want to think about our practices as really exemplifying that polycultural, polylingual, polymodal kind of way of life.
  • (58:42) Youth really are making their learning across multiple spaces and we're involved--it doesn't displace our institutional goals as teachers as mentors...We're along the pathway with them, side-by-side.

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Image used with permission from The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers