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“Walk in My Shoes”: An Actionable Learner Engagement Framework to Foster Growth, Belonging, and Agency

This actionable framework captures our vision, recommendations, tools, and insights for redesigning a learn-to-work journey that centers learners’ growth, agency, and belonging, featuring learnings from interviews with hundreds of learners for whom higher education was never designed.

In trying to better understand the experiences of learners, learner engagement is the holy grail. The same underlying drivers of learner engagement can inspire a 16-year-old to pursue college right away, a stopped-out college student to come back, a worker to dip a toe into a new course to gain in-demand skills. Learner engagement and satisfaction of its underlying drivers have repeatedly been shown to predict persistence and retention, academic performance, completion rates, student satisfaction, and career outcomes. As a result, people’s engagement as learners can affect their economic mobility for the rest of their lives, impact key metrics for learning providers, and shape regional economic growth.

Decades of research in psychology and behavioral science have shown that three key drivers—growth, belonging, and agency—have an outsized impact on learners’ engagement, success in reaching their goals, and well-being. Yet these are rarely discussed amid higher education’s ongoing crises. Leveraging core principles of Self-Determination Theory and the Lab’s seven years of work with learners and leaders in higher ed, our team has articulated a learner engagement framework, with accompanying insights and examples from our work to co-create new models with colleges and other learning providers.

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Watch: Redesigning Higher Ed to Support New Majority Learners’ Engagement

On March 3, 2021, we celebrated the release of the Lab’s Actionable Learner Engagement Framework with a roundtable discussion on how institutions are rethinking learner engagement to support today’s new majority learners and insights from the first in the Lab’s Toolkit publication series.

Moderated by Don Fraser, chief program officer at Education Design Lab, and featuring Miriam Swords Kalk, education designer at the Lab; Wendi Copeland, chief strategic partnership activation officer at Goodwill Industries International; Dr. Angela Jackson, partner at Learn to Earn, New Profit; and Julian Thompson, strategist at UNCF.

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Join us in sharing your work with this framework on Twitter #WalkinMyShoes #EngagingLearners #LearnerEngagement

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