The Learning Lab Model

In 2016, longtime educators Susan Hennessey & Bill Rich teamed up to design a year-long practicum for educators that models the very kind of personalized and proficiency-based learning conditions they're trying to create for their students.

Educators, administrators and coaches from around Vermont and beyond, apply for this practicum each spring. Participants can apply singly or in teaching teams.They meet with the two Learning Lab coordinators and together craft an inquiry question each educator along with their students will pursue during their year-long participation in the Learning Lab.

Next, the full Learning Lab cohort meets for a day during the summer to get to know each other and to get clear about the sequence of the work, the learning that matters most. The group shares timely and pressing questions about teaching and learning and drafts inquiry questions with feedback.

From the get go, we urge our learners to be open with each other.

Once the school year starts, we share a weekly huddle prompt to connect, inspire, and inform our network; host a weekly optional synchronous connection to share the learning; and facilitate three 9-noon Saturday virtual sessions to connect as a network.  Coordinators Bill and Susan provide site-based coaching for our learners throughout the year. And twice during the year we meet for an overnight at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro VT. 

As the level of trust in the circle grows, teachers begin opening up about where they need support and the network responds to these needs. Teachers need these kinds of relationships and this sense of community if they’re going to commit to the complex, creative and challenging work of getting personalization right.

And that's where the fun begins.


How it Works and What's Expected:

  • Extended periods of independent, site-based work, supported with embedded coaching;
  • Participation in the digital network you'll use to stay connected with your cohort through short weekly huddle prompts;
  • ​Learning Lab rounds (hosting colleagues / students who are interested in what you and your learners are doing and learning);
  • Learning Lab visits* (visiting two Learning Labs);
  • A final Learning Lab Report to tell the story of your learning;
  • Two overnight gatherings of our cohort, to debrief and rejuvenate November 12 & 13 and March 11 & 12;
  • Three Saturdays (9:00 - 12:00) Oct. 2, Jan 22, May 7
  • The public nature of this network, committed to sharing our findings with your colleagues, this Learning Lab network, and the wider world of education. We’ll provide plenty of choices for you that best suit your context and content (present at a faculty meeting, publish a blog post, co-host a webinar, present at a conference, etc.)

Learning Lab Scope & Sequence

Orientation: August

Orientation to the network practicum:

  • August 9, 2021: 9am to 3pm, in-person and/or virtual launch

We will:

  • Begin getting to know and understand the members of this network better.
  • Begin using the ideas, tools, and routines we’ll be applying throughout this experience.
  • Get clear about our purpose and the products we’ll be creating.
  • Pose (and answer) pressing questions.

Getting Settled In: September - October

We will:

  • Use The Weekly Huddle to clarify our next steps and access resources we need.
  • Access Calendar of Opportunities for our weekly virtual synchronous session & consider options (optional).
  • Draft our inquiry questions.
  • Begin identifying our student Learning Lab team.


Making Connections: October - November

We will:

  • Use The Weekly Huddle to clarify our next steps and access resources we need.
  • Establish student Learning Lab team.
  • Refine inquiry question & identify sources of data.
  • Schedule cross-site connections

Site Visits: November - February

We will:

  • Use The Weekly Huddle to clarify our next steps and access resources we need.
  • Schedule / Make In-Person or Virtual Site Visits.
  • Generare & collect data from multiple sources.
  • Activate Learning Lab team.
  • Draft Mid-Year Learning Lab Report

Site Visits & Data Collection / Analysis: February - March

We will:

  • Generate & collect data from multiple sources.
  • Schedule & make virtual site visits
  • Make cross-site connections
  • Draft Mid-Year Learning Lab Report

Network Connection: March 11 / 12 Overnight

We will:

  • Reflect, rejuvenate, and adjust.
  • Tune drafts of current products.
  • Schedule final hosting / making visits.
  • Schedule April & May site visits with coaches.

Final Run: April & May

We will:

  • Summarize, analyze, and evaluate (with students) the experience / data of hosting / making visits.
  • Finalize Learning Lab Report.
  • Publish / submit final products to inform the field.
  • Celebrate!

More About Inquiry Questions