The Student Centered Learning Framework V1.0

From day one we knew we were onto something with TNDS. Something without a totally clear and defined shape and yet, through the words and key concepts we were sharing, it had connected with people’s aspirations and frustrations. Part of the success was because those words and concepts had been in the making for over 2 years and were born for the right reasons: to hack design education. To transform it and leverage the best in each one of us.

On March 18th 2017, after little over two months of running the program, Sara and I sat down to think about our future. That sunny Saturday sprint eventually ended with a clearer picture of how we wanted to achieve our goals. By materialising a series of new concepts we somehow managed to clarify our thoughts and design the framework I’m about to show you. By sharing it with the world we sincerely hope it will influence and bootstrap similar programs to ours.

The essence — What it is

In short, we’ve designed a 2 axis graph that maps time and student’s outcomes. These range from more tech to more design oriented in a list of 8 potential job roles, so that through the 12 month period of the program we can establish a path for each student that doesn’t necessarily end at the same point as everyone else. This map is then filled with each student’s aspirations and allows us to fill the empty masterclass/workshop slots with what serve the students best.

It starts with the name

I must be honest at this point as I think the name is awful: “The Student-Centered Learning Framework”. It should be flashy, catchy and sexy. It was the best we could think of at the time although the mere essence of our concerns is summarised there. Maybe we’ll change it later but for now, allow me to break it down into the 3 key components here.

  1. Student Centered: the individual student is not an average. There is no such thing as average needs or average learning desires. Every student is unique, and, just like anyone else, has strengths and weaknesses. If the training provided acknowledges that and focuses on preparing the best professionals he or she could be, they will feel more confident in the future
  2. Learning (instead of teaching): the teacher is no longer the single source of knowledge. It’s the student’s role to define what they want to learn and to take action for it. We’ll provide the structure and means, help with contacts and arrangements and guide them to make sure everything works out alright in the end.
  3. Framework: unlike a curriculum, we don’t mean to impose a fixed list of topics to everyone but rather a structure, a methodology, a set of values. Allow each individual to define their own path and unite each cohort as a tribe. In the end, they’ll get to their destination all together but they will have taken different paths.

So in essence, we wanted to craft a blueprint that would provide some guidance but leave plenty of room for free will and personalisation. Everyone we’ve validated this with seems to agree the graph works. Let me break it down to you and see what you think.

The path

The traditional path

When you ask people about what a school is, some of them will start their sentence with: “It’s place where…”. I myself have always viewed traditional education as the 4 walls it’s usually tied up with. At TNDS though, school is a process you go through that shouldn’t have the same shape for everyone.

Imagine yourself in a huge airport tarmac. It’s too big for you, right? You almost don’t know in which direction to move. So imagine that we’ve added traffic cones along the track to form a corridor. Each cone is UI Design, Frontend Development, UX Research and a handful more of disciplines.

If the tarmac was the 12 months of the program, the cones we’re laying out are merely the key topics around Digital Design, the masterclasses we’ve set out to provide with key industry leaders and creatives.

TNDS Driven VS Student Driven

The 2 axis and the outputs

One thing we’ve acknowledged and agreed is that there will be no two equal students. Everyone is different and comes with personal baggage. And no two paths and lists of interests will ever look the same. So why provide the same exact result?

If in traditional education you go through the corridor of cones, steering your way through the middle and trying to get to the same finish line as everyone else, here we believe everyone will have a different and unique finish line. So we’ve decided to add an extra axis to our framework and outline a series of 8 potential job roles that might represent the future. Every time a student uses this framework, they have to choose a spectrum of job roles they might be interested in. We acknowledge the extremes (User Researcher and Backend Developer) might be a bit off for most of our students and that there’s a lot more they might want to know or become when it comes to business, management or other overarching roles — these are supposed to represent the core and easily sorted roles in the spectrum between design and tech oriented.

If the first axis is school/TNDS driven, then this new vertical one is student driven, and each one will decide where on the scale they want to end.

Guidance VS Independence

The two stages

As much as the final objective still is to train free-thinkers, we have to provide some structure and guidance. To create a common set of values, a team culture, a tribe. And for that, the students must work and face challenges together. Face their differences, surpass them and find ways to collaborate together.

In the first half of the program, we’re aiming at doing just that. After the summer break, though, things will be different as it becomes increasingly difficult to find matches between each one’s own agenda. That’s when we start the independence stage where each person sets out clearer lines for their path while seeking help from his peers and the school’s network.

Filling in the blanks

Case studie example

As any framework, we’ll need to introduce our own contents each year. According to what the group or the individuals need, we’ll reach out to our network of mentors and professionals to find the best masterclasses, workshops, webinars or lessons of any sort to solve the problem. The beauty of it is that once filled in, this acts as a letter of intentions for each student. Defining a roadmap for them but also a base plan for the school to adjust accordingly.

Next steps

The framework in action in 1-to-1 sessions with our students

As the first year of the project, unexpected and exciting new things are about to happen. We’re sure of it. And as we’re getting closer to the middle of the program and about to enter the first divergent/independence stage we’ll have much better conclusions in 4 months time. We’re always glad to share our progress, both here on Medium and by email or call — just get in touch!

If you want to know more about the process we went through to define the framework check out this post about it. And if you want to understand what led us and motivated us to create it in the first place, make sure you read Sara’s post as well (to be posted in the next couple of days).

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. You rock!




Everyday stories about learning, teaching and growing designers

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Tiago Pedras

Tiago Pedras

UX Designer. Founder of @newdigitschool. Often considering dessert before dinner.

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