In early 2015, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) contracted with the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) to conduct a qualitative study examining the implementation of student-centered learning (SCL) practices in select public high schools in New England. This study extends lines of inquiry explored through a prior (2014) project that UMDI conducted for NMEF. The 2014 study employed survey methodology to examine the prevalence of student-centered practices in public high schools across New England. The present study builds upon the investigation, using a variety of qualitative methods to further probe the richness and complexity of SCL approaches in use across the region. Specifically, this study was designed to address what student-centered practices "look like" in an array of contexts. The study also addresses the perceived impacts that SCL approaches have on students, staff, and schools. Additionally, it highlights the broad array of factors within and beyond school walls that reportedly foster and challenge the implementation of SCL practices. This study seeks to help NMEF understand the intricacies of SCL and provides strategic considerations for how Nellie Mae can promote the adoption and development of student-centered practices in the region.
Nellie Mae organizes student-centered learning by four tenets: (1) learning is personalized; (2) learning is competency-based; (3) learning takes place anytime, anywhere; and (4) students take ownership.
Specifically, the study addresses five research questions: