Episode 30: Empowering Learners Through Real World Challenges With Miguel Gonzalez & Meg Parry

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Episode Summary:

Meg Parry and Miguel Gonzalez, former leaders at Embark, a learner-centered micro-school embedded in a small business in North Denver, share their experiences and insights into creating learning environments grounded in trust, authentic challenges, and the development of learner agency.

Meg and Miguel discuss their personal journeys into education. Meg was motivated by her father’s work as a teacher and her own realization of education as a lever for social change. Miguel was motivated by his love of working with youth, which began with a high school job at a YMCA program. Both share how experiences in small school communities that put relationships first shaped their educational philosophies.

They dive into the key elements of Embark’s model, including how the school is physically embedded in a coffee and bicycle shop, how learning experiences are designed around solving real business challenges, and how they hold learners to professional standards for their work.

Key topics covered include:

โฐ Flipping the script on trust, with learners managing their own schedules and learning to handle that responsibility
๐Ÿ“š Shifting from content-focused teaching to competency-based learning
๐Ÿ‘ฅ The importance of a community-embedded model and concentric circles of authentic challenge for learners
๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ How to support educators in shifting to learner-centered mindsets and practices
๐Ÿ”ฎ Meg and Miguel’s visions for education systems that foster learner agency and brilliance

Related Resources:

  • Video: The Coffee Roasting Project at Embark Education (YouTube)
    “This project was initiated with an authentic need from business. Rather than do that as adults, we put that challenge to learners.”
  • Course: Design Real World Learning Experiences (Learner-Centered Collaborative).
    Explore strategies such as project-based learning, design thinking, place-based learning, inquiry-based learning, passion projects and more to co-design more real-world learning experiences with learners.
  • Tool: 10 Questions to Ask Students (Learner-Centered Collaborative).
    Listening to learners is essential when leading change. This tool will help you spark conversations with your students to understand whatโ€™s working and where innovation may best serve your school. Empathy โ€“ listening to learners โ€“ is the first step in designing solutions that scale.

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