Big Picture Learning schools exist throughout the world. They are in rural environments and urban environments. They serve both large and small populations of students. Some Big Picture schools exist in gleaming new buildings, while some can be found in retrofitted structures which haven’t been in use for some time. In short, Big Picture schools (like the learners they serve) often look dramatically different than one another. Each is its own unique environment where young people can flourish as individuals within a community of learners. However, there are many elements within our learning design that are uncommon and distinct, which pull our network together and distinguish them from most other schools.

ONE STUDENT AT A TIME – The entire learning experience is personalized to each learner’s interests, talents and needs. Personalisation expands beyond mere academic work and involves looking at each student holistically.

ADVISORY STRUCTURE – Advisory is the core organisational and relational structure of a Big Picture Learning school, its heart and soul, often described as a “second family” by learners.

LEARNING THROUGH INTERESTS AND INTERNSHIPS (LTIs) – Real world learning is best accomplished in the real world. Big Picture learners work where possible with experts in their field of interest, completing authentic projects and gaining experience and exposure to how their interests intersect with the real world.

PARENT AND FAMILY ENGAGEMENT – Parents are welcome and valued members of the school community and play a proactive role in their children’s learning, collaborating in the planning and assessment of student work. They use their assets to support the work of the school, and often play an integral role in building relationships with potential LTI mentors.

SCHOOL CULTURE – In Big Picture schools, there is palpable trust, respect and equality between and among students and adults. Learners take leadership roles in the school, and teamwork defines the adult culture. Learner voice is valued in the school decision making process and visitors are struck by the ease with which learners interact with adults.

AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT – Learners are assessed not by tests, but by public displays of learning that track growth and progress in the student’s area of interest. Assessment criteria are individualised to the learner and the real world standards of a project. Learners present exhibitions and discuss their learning growth with staff, parents, peers, and mentors.

SCHOOL ORGANIZATION – Schools are organised around a culture of collaboration and communication. They are not bound by the structures of buildings, schedules, bells, or calendars. There is an interdependence between school and community.

LEADERSHIP – Leadership is shared and spread between a strong, visionary principal; a dedicated, responsible team of advisors and other staff; and learners. The community functions as a democracy. A pervasive sense of shared ownership drives a positive culture dedicated to ongoing improvement.

POST-SECONDARY PLANNING – Students develop plans that contribute to their future success–be it through college, trades, schools, travel, the military, or the workforce.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Regular advisor PD is conducted at each school by principals, other school staff, and BPL staff and coaches. A Big Picture School is a community of lifelong learners who embrace continuous improvement.