University of Vermont

Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education

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Our Mission

The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education (TIIE) is an outreach, development and research arm of the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. TIIE partners with middle schools to improve the education of young adolescents in Vermont through technology-rich learning.

Three children staring at laptops

Our Objectives

  1. to increase middle school students' academic engagement through technology-rich learning designed for young adolescents;
  2. to increase adolescents' likelihood of school completion through attention to drop-out predictors; and
  3. to prepare students for citizenship by engaging them today as 21st century citizens.

Our Strategies

  1. Enhancing student access to technology in the middle grades;
  2. Improving teacher practice via high quality professional development on the causes of drop-out, technology integration, and research-based teaching practices;
  3. Supporting educators and students through interactive web-based models and resources;
  4. Establishing infrastructure for promoting technology-rich pedagogy in Vermont's middle grades; and
  5. Partnering with others to bring additional resources into Vermont schools to promote effective, technology-rich teaching practices.

Our Model

In collaboration with Vermont middle grades educators, TIIE developed the I-LEAP model as a means to improve the education of young adolescents. The model is based on the premise that achieving a fit between learners' needs and their school environment is essential to students' success. In I-LEAP classrooms, teachers understand that students hold important knowledge about their learning needs, interests and preferences. Students are central to, and often lead, classroom design, curriculum, instruction and assessment.

I-LEAP is not a curriculum; it is a pedagogy based on six essential tenets, each of which can only be realized by acknowledging students as legitimate partners in designing their learning. All learning strategies come back to these essential understandings.

Learning in I-LEAP classrooms is:


Students learn in ways that close the gap between their in-school and out-of-school technology lives. The many technologies students use are powerful tools for learning and are integrated in meaningful ways by skillful teachers.


Students embrace their unique learning styles and understand their needs as learners. Their questions, interests, pace and capacities are central to curriculum and demonstrations of learning.


Students pose questions, engage in learning, use technologies and develop skills relevant to their lives. They pursue concepts and demonstrate learning and achievement in ways that are compelling to them.


Students identify and engage in work worth doing, make meaningful connections between disciplines, collaborate with classmates, and present to real world audiences. These audiences include peers and members of local and online communities.


Students are active and moving, engaged in hands-on, often field-based, learning. They explore, and with the support of a knowledgeable and facilitative teacher, tackle work that they find challenging and interesting. They seek and generate rather than passively receive knowledge.

Students celebrate the individuality and diversity of their learning community. Their views, experiences, and beliefs are honored by teachers and students alike.

The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education (TIIE) knows the middle grades are a critical time to make a difference in learners' lives. A 6th grader with serious troubles in behavior, academic performance, or attendance, for example, has barely a 25 percent chance of finishing high school. And the level of academic achievement attained by students in eighth grade has a greater impact on their college and career readiness than any aspect of high school academics. Clearly, then, the middle grades provide an essential intervention opportunity for improving the lives of students and, ultimately, their communities and society.

How do we keep students engaged and on track for school completion, particularly in middle school, when many students disengage from school? We believe a technology-rich, student-centered environment engages young adolescents in successful learning. TIIE helps middle grades educators and students create schools for the 21st century, schools that respond to the nature and needs of young adolescents and reflect our rapidly changing world.

Transforming the Middle Grades Classroom with Innovative Technologies

TIIE has joined forces with the Middle Grades Collaborative to offer high quality professional development for teachers and administrators exploring how to transform middle grades classrooms with readily available technologies. As part of the Middle Grades Institute, participants in this strand will create and implement technology-enhanced solutions to support team teaching, an inclusive classroom culture, engaging instructional methods, and integrated learning. Learn more by visiting the Middle Grades Collaborative website and downloading the brochure and registration form at

Last modified August 29 2012 09:09 AM