In the U.S., one student drops out of school every 12 seconds.
That's a lot of students so far this school year.

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The Big Picture Learning design is a dynamic approach to learning, doing, and thinking that has been changing the lives of students, educators, and entire communities since 1995. All of the components of the design are based on three foundational principles: first, that learning must be based on the interests and goals of each student; second, that a student’s curriculum must be relevant to people and places that exist in the real world; and finally, that a student’s abilities must be authentically measured by the quality of her or his work.

The Five Learning Goals

Big Picture Learning believes that high school graduates must know how to reason, problem-solve, and be active members of the community. At Big Picture Learning schools, there is no canon of information that all students must know. In a world where available information is growing exponentially, we believe that the most important thing a student needs to know is how to learn. Integral to the Big Picture Learning design are our five Learning Goals, a framework for looking at concepts, skills, and abilities and help guide the creation of personalized student curriculum.

The five Learning Goals are:

  • Empirical Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Communication
  • Social Reasoning
  • Personal Qualities

Big Picture Learning School Distinguishers

Big Picture Learning schools are unique environments where students can flourish as individuals within a community of learners. There are many elements within our learning design that are uncommon and distinct, and set Big Picture schools apart from most schools. We call these common characteristics ‘distinguishers’, as they distinguish the Big Picture Learning design from other learning designs or models.

Big Picture Learning’s School Distinguishers, listed below, exist as a comprehensive whole. They are interrelated and inform one another – none work in isolation. It is the seamless integration of reflection-based action and the distinguishers that result in the powerful success of the Big Picture Learning design.

The Ten Distinguishers are:

  1. Learning In the Real World: LTI
  2. One Student At A Time: Personalization
  3. Authentic Assessment
  4. School Organization
  5. Advisory Structure
  6. School Culture
  7. Leadership
  8. Parent/Family Engagement: Adult Support
  9. School/College Partnership: College Preparation and Support
  10. Professional Development

Purchase Big Picture Materials

A selection of Big Picture Learning’s comprehensive training materials – previously only available to schools in the network – are now available for purchase via digital download. These handbooks provide theoretical basis for our philosophy, explain essential elements of the design, offer pedagogical frameworks, and supply tools for teaching and learning.

Download a guide that will help improve your work!

Visit a Big Picture Learning School Near you!

The best way to learn about the Big Picture Learning design is to witness it firsthand! A visit to one of our seventy small schools allows you to experience Big Picture Learning’s philosophy of educating one student at a time in action. During a visit, you will meet with and learn from real students and staff members who practice the design daily.

If you are interested in visiting a Big Picture Learning School, click here

Interactive Map

Big Picture schools can be found worldwide! With over sixty schools in the United States and partnering organizations supporting numerous Big Picture schools abroad – Big Picture Learning is truly a global community.

Explore our interactive map to learn more about a school in your area – or beyond!

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Interest Forms

Interested in becoming a mentor or volunteer at a Big Picture school? Don't see the position you are looking for and would like to be considered when a job becomes available? Fill out the appropriate interest form and your information will be sent directly to the schools of your choice.

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