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24.2.2020 | Pukhraj Ranjan & Chris Jackson |

Big Picture Learning Philosophy Of "One Student At A Time" Scales To Belize, Kazakstan And Beyond

With 65 schools in the USA, the Big Picture Learning philosophy of "one student at a time" has already seen the idea spread to a number of countries including New Zealand, India, Kazakstan, China, and Belize. We reached out to the innovators behind this program to hear about their experience being in the HundrED 2018, 2019 & 2020 Global Collections.

Big Picture Learning makes personalized education more manageable by breaking students up into small groups, called an advisory. Each advisory is supported and led by an advisor, a teacher that works closely with their group of students and forms personalized relationships with each member. Internships are a crucial part of the method. The advisors work with each student to arrange opportunities best suited to them, providing real-world learning alongside creating future career plans.

Established in Rhode Island, the USA in 1995, the very first class of Big Picture Learning school students graduated in 2000 with a 96% graduation rate. 98% of its graduates were admitted to post-secondary institutions, receiving over $500,000 in scholarships to help fund their college experiences. 

As well as having 65 schools in the USA, the Big Picture Learning philosophy of "one student at a time" has already seen the idea spread to a number of countries including New Zealand, India, Kazakstan, China and Belize where new schools have been created, existing schools have transformed or national policies have been influenced.

We reached out to Chris Jackson, Chief Communications Officer, Big Picture Learning to hear how being in all the HundrED global collections has helped them share their work.

What does it mean for Big Picture Learning to be recognized as a leading education innovator in the HundrED 2018, 2019 and 2020 Global Collection?

Listen, we think what we’re doing is important. And the research and data support that. Our idea, launched almost 25 years ago, was that schools and learning can only be strengthened when we lean into our communities for support and engagement. Combining community engagement with student interests has led to significant improvements in many of the schools we work with. But we still find that some communities are reluctant – even scared – to rethink and revitalize the ways in which they approach teaching and learning. We wish it weren’t so, but in some places “Big Picture Learning” and its approach are still an unknown. Thus, when we’re able to share with local communities that Big Picture is internationally renowned, it adds additional credibility to our work and our name. What’s more, for those schools who have been part of the Big Picture Learning network for some time, the knowledge that we’re all part of something that can have a global impact becomes a source of pride. 


What are your biggest takeaways from the HundrED Innovation Summit?

We look at the folks who have attended the HundrED Innovation Summit – as we have in the past – and there are a number of familiar faces. But there are an equal number of unfamiliar faces, people around the world who are either innovating for the first time or who have been doing so for some time and are only now having the appropriate light shown on their work. To us, this is the true power of the HundrED Innovation Summit. There was a time when Big Picture Learning was also doing our work in the shadows, not nefariously, just unnoticed. We take a lot of credit for the work we’re doing, but if we’re being honest, our tipping point came when someone looked into what we were doing and said, simply “More people need to know about this!” The HundrED Innovation Summit has the power to multiply this impact for many other organizations around the world whose time has come for recognition. We’re pleased to be part of a community that holds the flashlight. 

How has the HundrED Summit and global recognition helped progress the impact of Big Picture Learning?

Being part of the HundrED Summit has helps us bring additional attention to the fact that we’re actually an international network. Having started as one school in Providence, Rhode Island two decades ago, we couldn’t have ever imagined we’d be writing that sentence, but here we are. We have schools and school networks in Kenya, Kazakhstan, Barbados, Belize, Australia, India, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and more. Being part of the HundrED community and being on a world stage (both figuratively and literally) has really increased the opportunities we’ve had to spread our work even further. 

So, what is next for Big Picture Learning?

So much! Big Picture Learning might be best know for our school network, but we believe that our philosophy of “relationships, rigor & relevance” applies well beyond buildings. Our internship platform ImBlaze continues to spread as more communities and school districts across the United States realize the benefits of encouraging practical experience through mentorships and apprenticeships. Our Harbor Freight Fellowship is bringing renewed attention to the skilled trades as an important, viable and – quite frankly – lucrative post high school path for students. And we’re really exploring the power of storytelling with our friends from Fablevision Studios through our Navigating Our Way campaign, designed to shift the narrative around how society values the prospect of allowing students to follow their own interests and pursue their own passions. There’s a lot to be excited about at Big Picture Learning right now!  

What would you say to innovators who are looking to connect with HundrED? Why should they be part of the global community for change?

It would be impossible for us to emphasize the importance of community and NOT endorse the power of HundrED, which itself is a community on a global scale. We stress in our schools and with our students the importance of building social capital; about how it’s important to build networks of – as our co-founder Elliot Washor might say – “people who know you know what you know.” The HundrED community offers that opportunity. We never know HOW relationships will pay off, but we know that they WILL pay off. 

To know more about Big Picture Learning, check out their innovation page. Share your own education innovations by creating a page now!