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. Here's a snapshot of how it works. 

Each spring and early summer, educators apply to join the following year’s Learning Lab cohort. Most applicants are teachers, though administrators and coaches join in, too. Participants apply singly or in teams.

Next, the full Learning Lab cohort meets for a day during the summer (August 9, this year) to get to know each other and learn about all of our particular settings and learners. After a tasty lunch, we begin drafting inquiry questions, and thinking through how to engage our students in the inquiry process. Before the end of the day, we’ll invite you to let us know what’s working and how we can help you take your next steps.

At this point, we lean on our weekly digital communique, The Weekly Huddle, which helps keep our community connected, inspired, and informed in between our in-person meetings. Susan and Bill provide a monthly menu of optional and short synchronous sessions that anticipate what’s needed. They also provide individual coaching to help everyone get their September sea legs under them.

In October we hold one of three 9-noon Saturday virtual sessions to reconnect with each other and what matters most. We also begin planning site-based visits, inviting you to visit the two sites/educators whose line of inquiry most interests you. We also establish Student Sounding Boards, students whom you choose to help you generate and make sense of your data. We also begin connecting these groups of students, who sometimes join in on the site visits.

As the level of trust in the circle grows, the cohort begins opening up about what’s working and where they could use some help. Relationships begin to deepen. A sense of collective efficacy emerges, as together we help each other make sense of and act wisely in our particular education ecosystems. And that's where the real fun begins.


What's Expected:

  • Extended periods of independent & site-based work, supported with embedded coaching;
  • Engaging in the Weekly Huddle;
  • Site-based visits (visiting two Learning Labs);
  • A mid-year and final Learning Lab Report to tell the story of your learning;
  • Two overnight gatherings (November 19 and March 18) of our cohort, to debrief and rejuvenate;
  • Three 9:00 - 12:00 Saturday Sessions  (October 2, January 22, May 7)
  • Generosity with our findings, with our Learning Lab mates, our colleagues, and the wider educational community.

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