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Big Picture Learning

How can personalized learning enable all students to follow their interests?

Big Picture Learning makes personalized education more manageable by breaking students up into small groups, called an advisory. Each advisory is supported and lead 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.

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HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2020

HundrED 2019

HundrED 2018

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March 2017
We at Big Picture Learning stand for unbridled, fearless curiosity and we will continue, as we always have, to foster learning spaces which create the wake in which students can freely, and with courage, pursue their passions and interests

About the innovation

What is Big Picture Learning?

One of the biggest criticisms of mass education systemsis that they are too standardized, or 'one size fits all.' As we all have different learning styles, interests and talents it would make sense for education tobe personalized to complement our unique abilities.

Not only would this increase motivation for students, but could help children who do not currently fit with the current learning style employed in education, potentially helping individuals who struggle with learning difficulties,such as dyslexia.

That's all well and good, but the reality ofmaking learning personalized in a class of 30+ students seems difficult and extremely daunting, especially when teachers are tasked with preparing students forstandardized tests and set learning outcomes.

So, while the positives of personalizededucation arerecognized, implementation can seem impossible.

Big Picture Learning makes personalized education more managable by breaking the students up into small groups of fifteen students, called an advisory.

Each advisory is supported and lead by an advisor, a teacher that works closely with the group of students and forms personalized relationships with each member of their group.

They stay in the same advisory for four years, and each student works closely with his or her advisor to personalize their learning byidentifying interests, figuring out how they learn bestand what motivates them.Parents and families are also actively involved in theprocess, helping to shape the student’s continuation of learning.

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.

The result is a student-centered learning experience, where students are actively invested in their learning and feel challenged to pursue their interests by a supportive community of educators, professionals, and family members who truly get to know them as individuals.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Big Picture Learning works at the level of the individual student. Each student has a voice in their own learning and a sense of agency in both the school and wider communities.


Established in Rhode Island, 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 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.

Academy review results
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Implementation steps

Consider the students' expectations of school
We often hear of the expectations that schools have of students, but we rarely get a chance to hear about the expectations that students have of schools. These get less attention, but are essential to keeping students engaged and in school.

In order for schools and teachers to be able to place students at the centre of their own learning, theyneed to be prepared to ask themselves some tough questions.

These may include:

  • Do I know about my students’ individual interests and talents?

  • Do I help my students understand how learning contributes to our community and the world?

  • Do my students have opportunities to tinker and make guesses?

  • Do my students have real choices about what, when and how to learn and demonstrate their abilities?

Explore the 10 Expectations portal
To support schools and teachers to move towards personalized learning, Big Picture Learning has created a portal filled with useful resources.

The 10 Expectations portalsupports schools and teachers as they work towards a student-centred approach to learning. Free resources include videos, rubrics and interactive surveys for students, teachers and parents. Thesehelp schools understand if they are providing a truly engaging learning environment and allows them to ask the vital question:“Have we considered students’ own expectations of us?".

Choose one or two of the ten expectations to start the journey towards student-centred learning.

Build the learning community
Parents and families are actively involved in the learning process, helping to shape the student’s learning plan and are enrolled as resources to the school community.

Parents are a valued part of the Big Picture Learning community. There are tools and example questions on the 10 Expectations portal that are specifically designed to consider the parents' views and expectations of schools.

As well as meeting with students and advisors four times a year to review the learning plans, parentsplay a proactive role in their children’s learning, collaborating in the planning and assessment of student work.

Develop internships for engaging and relevant education
Real world learning is best accomplished in the real world. Big Picture students intern with experts in their field of interest, completing authentic projects and gaining experience and exposure to how their interests intersect with the real world.

Learning Through Internships (LTI) is central to the Big Picture Learning approach and aims to make education more relevant and engaging. Studentsbuild knowledge, understanding and skills in the context of authentic work. Big Picture students may spend up to two days a week as an intern.

To support the spread of this educational approach, Big Picture Learning has created a toolkitcomplete with free resources and advice on how to develop meaningful internships within the local community.

Spread of the innovation

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