4a. Authentic, Active Learning Experiences and 4c. Accessible and Active Learning Environments

Collaborate with educators to develop authentic, active learning experiences that foster student agency, deepen content mastery and allow students to demonstrate their competency.

Collaborate with educators to design accessible and active digital learning environments that accommodate learner variability.

ISTE Standards for coaches 2019

I keep coming back to what authentic and active learning really means, what it looks like, and how that connects with student agency and learner variability. As I continue to think about this, one word that comes to mind is creativity. How can coaches support educators in thinking creatively when designing learning experiences and how can creativity be used with students? Creativity is one of those things that can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used to engage students, provide agency to students, and help differentiate learning for students. This is why when collaborating with educators it is important that I help educators to think about how they are bringing creativity into the classroom. One way that this can be done is by bringing in student voice and choice into how they demonstrate their learning. I talk more about how educators can use digital resources for this in my blog post, Creativity and the Classroom. In this post I highlight how a resource such as ThingLink can be used to allow students to take ownership of their learning and be creative in how they demonstrate learning. Below is an example I created of how ThingLink can be used to demonstrate learning creatively.

It is also important that collaboration leads to better learning for students. One thing that I try to bring into coaching conversations that I have is, how are educators and students collaborating together? Collaboration doesn’t just have to be between educators or just between students. So it is important to construct a learning environment where we are co-learning together, this way there isn’t just one expert in the room but instead the room is full of experts. For me this gets at the heart of authentic and active learning because it allows everyone to have a voice in the learning. I also think this is the part of coaching that I enjoy the most, collaborating and co-learning with educators. I spend much of my time in my position as a facilitator collaborating with other people. I also spend time coaching new teachers and oftentimes planning learning opportunities with them. I am currently working with a teacher who is teaching a course for the first time. We have spent many of our meetings discussing how to engage students both virtually and in-person and how we might make the content more relevant. We are also working to plan out what sort of project might be appropriate for the students to engage with at the end of the term in order to demonstrate mastery. You can read more around co-learning and collaboration in my blog post, Collaborating and Co-Learning Together.

Accommodating learner variability is also something that is important to consider when collaborating and planning. One way that I often bring this into the conversations that I have is through student voice and choice. So when working with educators I often ask how they are creating opportunities in which all students are able to engage in the learning in some way. How are we creating low floor and high ceiling opportunities for students? One way that this can be accomplished is through allowing students some choice in how they engage in the learning, can they watch a video, read a text, meet in a small group with the teacher? One way that I tried to model this was in the planning of a professional learning opportunity that I designed around PBL and the digital resource Nearpod. In this professional development I created opportunities for participants to determine what features of Nearpod they wanted to explore, so they could find ones that connected with them. They then had the opportunity to think about how the resources connected to PBL and how they might use them in the classroom. You can read more about this professional learning project in my blog post, EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project – Supporting Learning with Project-Based Learning and Nearpod. This all just reminds me of how important it is to make sure we are planning for how students are going to engage in the learning. This way we can intentionally plan for providing opportunities and resources so that all students can be a part of the learning.

Next Steps

Continuing to engage in collaboration that focuses on opening up instruction is something that I want to focus on. I really want to continue to learn more about learner variability and how to effectively plan instruction that accounts for variability. I appreciated the Edsurge article Understanding Learner Variability to Personalize Learning, as it shared the four factors that influence variability; content, cognition, social and emotional learning, and student backgrounds. Therefore it is important to consider all of these factors when planning authentic learning experiences. I also plan on continuing to dive into this work by learning more about the framework, Universal Design for Learning or UDL. I have completed a course that walks through the components of UDL but I would like to dig deeper into it and think about what this looks like in my own practice and how to share with educators. Since the core guidelines of UDL are engagement, representation, action and expressions, it directly connects with creating learning experiences that build student agency and account for variability.

Universal Design for Learning graphic
Giulia Forsythe – Universal Design For Learning


Forsythe, G. (2013). Universal Design For Learning [Photo]. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743/

ISTE Standards for Coaches (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Thinglink. (n.d.). Create unique experiences with interactive images, videos & 360° media—ThingLink. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://www.thinglink.com/

Understanding Learner Variability to Personalize Learning—EdSurge News. (2018, October 7). EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-10-07-understanding-learner-variability-to-personalize-learning