Imagine Learning Theory of Action
At Imagine Learning, our Theory of Action reflects our focus on helping all students learn and achieve while empowering educators to engage and instruct their students. We are honored to partner with teachers and administrators to make a difference in the lives of their students.
The following tenets of our Theory of Action are reflected in Imagine Learning’s mission, values, and programs.
1. We see all students through an assets-based lens.
At Imagine Learning, we believe all students possess powerful cognitive, linguistic, and cultural assets. All students bring valuable experiences, perspectives, and talents into their learning environments regardless of their background or ability level. For example, a student’s home language should be viewed as a valuable attribute to shared learning experiences.
When we as educators view students through an assets-based lens, we help to close the achievement gap. Educators should see their work as one of acceleration not remediation, and consider all students as deserving of grade-level expectations with appropriate support. Research shows that when students believe they are capable of developing their intelligence, they outperform their peers who believe they have a preset level of ability. This finding is compelling and highlights the importance of educators viewing all students as capable, competent, and able to contribute.
The verbiage we use when talking with others influences the lens through which we see our students. For example, we can choose to say we want to “empower” students instead of “rescue” them. We can identify “opportunities” to teach students, instead of identifying problems, weaknesses, or shortfalls. And we can honor home languages and cultures as assets, not view them as hurdles to overcome. When a student has a differing home language, we can describe them as an “emerging multi-lingual” instead of “limited English proficient.”
In the end, educators who view students through an assets-based lens can make a powerful difference in the way their students view themselves and in a student’s ability to believe they can learn and grow.
2. We view all students as language learners.
At Imagine Learning, we see language as central to all learning, and we emphasize academic and discipline-specific language development for all students.
We also view all teachers as language teachers. Students learn language in a variety of classroom capacities. Because language skills refer to how well we listen, speak, read, and write, we can see how a student uses language skills not just in English class, but in math, science, history, and art class. Students also encounter and come to understand unique language terminology in each subject class. Consider the word “table.” What might that refer to in a science class? A math class? A history class? The language of mathematics, the language of science, anything a student learns in a classroom setting might be different than what a student learns at home. Therefore, educators share in the important responsibility of ensuring that students are taught the language of their subject matter.
Because we view all students as language learners and all teachers as language teachers, we also view teacher-facilitated, intentional, guided classroom discourse as essential to learning. Co-constructed knowledge happens when we share our thinking and listen to others’ learning. Teaching the art of academic discourse is a shared responsibility of every teacher. Academic language, or the words we learn in school, are basically a second-language for each of us. The more opportunities educators provide for students to engage in academic discourse, the deeper the learning that will occur.
3. We believe in having high expectations for all students and in scaffolding up to support student achievement.
All students can be successful with grade-level content, language, and ideas when we scaffold up appropriately to support student success. The key is to find a student’s entry point through assessment and technology, and give appropriate but engaging content and instruction to each student with all the supports and scaffolds they need to help them succeed.
We don’t simply leave students at their entry point. When they have experienced learning successes, we challenge them with more advanced work to encourage them to reach to the edge of their zone of proximal development. By pairing interesting, meaningful content with appropriate scaffolds, we know that students are more likely to engage, reach, and grow as learners.
At Imagine Learning, we believe that the way to help close the achievement gap is by having high expectations for students, offering content they care about, and supporting them as they learn and progress. We also know that each student has areas they are strong at and other areas they may need support in. We scaffold up in a subject area a student needs assistance with while providing rigorous material that encourages them to reach further in their stronger areas. For example, a student may be proficient in geometry but need support with algebra. Or be strong with reading but need support with writing. There are different strands educators can provide support in, but it is important to remember that there is always something that each student is good at.
We believe all students should share the same finish line of college-and career-readiness and end-of-course exam success. We differentiate a student’s entry point and their instructional pathway without differentiating their end goal. And we use provided scaffolds as temporary supports, just like scaffolds on a building. Because ultimately, we want each student to be independent in their learning.
4. We believe it is important to provide students with worthy topics to learn about.
We understand that providing students with meaningful content helps students to engage and progress academically. It’s important to offer students topics that are worth learning about, talking about, reading about, and writing about. We provide interesting, age- and grade-level appropriate texts that present rich content and ideas.
Educators can identify worthy topics by finding out what interests each individual student and offering them related content to engage in, content that is contextualized so that it means something to the student. When students are interested in the content presented to them, they are more willing to work hard, participate, and learn.