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At Springhouse, learning is not a means to an end; it is a process of self-discovery..

Learning Maps and Reflection of Learning Conversations as Assessment Tools (Springhouse School)

location_on United States
At Springhouse, we know the value of discomfort; it’s a telling sign that you’re being stretched outside of what’s known and comfortable (the “Familiar Zone”) and into what’s uncomfortable (the “Learning Zone”) or new (“Unknown Zone”), which leads to growth and learning. Learners and facilitators use Learning Maps and Reflection of Learning discussions to assess growth in our core skills.
H. Leopold, Vitality-Centered Education Lead at Springhouse
“I would not be who or where I am today without Springhouse. Here, I am not a grade or a label; I am seen and valued as the whole person that I am, with all that comes with it.” ~Springhouse Learner

H. Leopold, Vitality-Centered Education Lead at Springhouse


HundrED has not validated this innovation

Anyone can submit their innovation to HundrED Open. All information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been checked by HundrED. Innovation page has been created by H Leopold on November 21st, 2021
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Updated on June 28th, 2022
about the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Springhouse envisions a regenerative culture, and we see education as a way to create culture. We create and offer vitality-centered education - education that brings us alive. The current assessment structures that dominate American schools lack vitality and promote external motivation in our youth. This innovation experiments with a vital form of assessment that promotes learner agency.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Learning maps allow learners to track and reflect on their experiences and learning. They include three “zones”: the Familiar Zone, the Learning Zone, and the Unknown Zone. This map was inspired by the work of Anna Switzer in her book, "License to Learn." At the beginning of a class, facilitators allot time for learners to create a map - or multiple - that includes both class topic-specific and skill-specific experiences. This map is then referenced throughout the class to track learning as it moves in and out of the zones. These maps are then used as central focal points for the end of class Reflection of Learning conversations, which include: a written reflection process and a scheduled conversation with facilitator/s and trusted peers with the intention of reflecting on and integrating their learning and growth. The learning maps, relevant work samples, the learner's own reflections, and meaningful feedback on next steps are important aspects of these conversations.

How has it been spreading?

Our assessment model at Springhouse has been evolving through experimentation and feedback over the past 8 years - from credits to proficiency criteria to our current reflection-based model. We include learner voice in all steps of this process, particularly through a Learner Curriculum Committee, and their feedback and insights - as well as the experiences and feedback of the adults on staff - directly impacts how we move forward. The language used in this model (i.e. the names of the zones) has already integrated into the way learners speak about themselves and their learning ("This is definitely in my Learning Zone!") and has eased some of their stress around getting things "right" or needing to be "proficient" in all of the skills in our framework.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

To learn more about the implementation of this assessment tool and receive learning map templates to use as well as a pdf of Springhouse's "Guide to Incorporating Meaningful Reflection," please contact H. Leopold (they/them), Springhouse's Vitality-Centered Education Lead.


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November 2021
Innovation page created on

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