SelfDesign Learning Community has been a model for personalized learning since its 2002 inception, placing the learner at centre and supporting the development of fully-customized learning plans for each individual. British Columbia’s move toward a personalized curriculum began to be implemented for K-9 in 2015 and for 10-12 in 2016, and SelfDesign has continued to enhance its own progressive model within a provincial environment that is now more supportive than ever of educational advances. We have been a leader in our province, and this year our grade 10 learners will step out to explore course-free, integrated learning while continuing to gain credit toward their Dogwood diploma or follow the path to completion that best suits them.

SelfDesign’s philosophy is formed around a set of beliefs about how learning happens and how learners flourish. We see learning as a continual process rather than as a product, and we foster an iterative, conscious approach to developing competencies. We trust that each child is accumulating and broadening skills and understandings in individual right timing and that because we as humans are designed to be learners, all children will move toward engagement if the environment is rich and nourishing and if the topics are relevant to their lives.

We believe that each learner has a unique set of interests and ideas. As a part of fostering the self-agency of our young people toward 21st century living, we have historically designed our K-12 program based on individual learner desires or curiosities instead of a prescribed curriculum. Rather than simply modifying a set curriculum for learning styles or other ‘differentiating’ aspects, the SelfDesign program is grounded in a philosophy of self-authoring, assisting learners toward ownership of and supported responsibility for their decisions, building competency and resilience lifelong.

We believe that learning at home and in community sets the ground for strong relational learning, and we recognize that in the various phases of development a child or youth benefits from differing levels of parental or peer involvement. As such we focus initially on building the parent/educator relationship in the early years of our program, adding and strengthening both learner/educator and peer-to-peer relationships as our young people mature. Deep family commitment to the learning program from the beginning sets a foundation for children’s increasing ability to step out on their own on the developmental path.

We believe that lifelong learning is integrated learning, and as such we support environments that model how learning happens in action. SelfDesign learning planning is dynamic and responsive to the shifts of young people’s curiosities and interests as they occur. Our approach is wholistic rather than separated into the study of isolated subjects. We now find ourselves in the good company of innovative educational systems like Finland’s, where integrated, course-free learning will soon become the norm.

These SelfDesign foundational beliefs, framing the structure of our program, give us a grounding that is strong yet nimble and responsive to scientific, cultural, and educational breakthroughs as they emerge. We fully expect to keep innovating — it’s in our very nature as a progressive, transformative learning program for the 21st century!

Contributed by River Meyer, Director – Organizational Learning/Communications