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Linked Learning Convention: A Perspective from a First-Time AttendeePosted on March 29, 2016 at 8:30pm

“We’ve come a long way,” said a person to my left. Hearing those words and seeing the breadth and variety of sessions at the 2016 Linked Learning Convention made me feel proud of the progress the Linked Learning movement has made. Our movement has hit the tipping point, I thought. But this great feeling didn’t last.

Linked Learning Convention 2016To be sure, I saw a lot that was encouraging. With nearly a thousand people attending, the convention was the biggest gathering ever of people interested in Linked Learning: practitioners, industry partners, policy makers, and community organizations. During the site visit to Clairemont High School in San Diego Unified School District, I saw students engaged with their learning and excited to explain the mock challenges they were solving. During the convention, students addressed the crowd and listed ways Linked Learning has changed their trajectory. In the sessions I attended, there was strong sense of community. For example, when someone shared a problem they were having, multiple people would reach out and offer help, suggestions or their lessons learned.

A Turning Point

I found my optimism shift when I attended a session led by Dr. Heather Lattimer, Associate Dean and Professor at the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego. Called Youth Voice, her session featured a four-student panel in addition to Dr. Lattimer’s own research, and explored the challenges and opportunities faced by students when they transition from Linked Learning high school pathways to post-secondary schools.

Dr. Lattimer summarized a study she conducted of sixty-eight first generation college students. She found that the biggest challenges the students faced in post-secondary institutions were the continued dominance of traditional teaching methods, not feeling connected to the campus community and financial pressures such as tuition, and student debt. Dr. Lattimer goes into more depth in an article she co-authored, After a Progressive K-12 Education… Then what? First Gen Youth Voice on the Transition to College.

Student describing their transition from high school to collegeThe four college students described their experiences and echoed Dr. Lattimer’s study results. They described the culture shock they experienced when they reached the college classroom and campus as well as severe financial stresses. Students felt unprepared for the way an average college class is managed, and stated that their 9-12 education experience became a disadvantage because it made it harder to conform to and endure traditional college classes. In a traditional classroom, students sit in their seats and are lectured to. Linked Learning classrooms involve more collaboration, and project-based learning. However, the students agreed that they felt empowered in high school and that their classes taught them more about life than any college course they’ve taken.

New Appreciation

Although surprised, I did not feel discouraged by what I learned during Dr. Lattimer’s session. This session gave me a new lens to look through because it provided an example of how complicated it is to prepare students for college and career. It left me with questions such as, how can the momentum built in high school carry over to post-secondary institutions? What more must be done to prepare students for college? Are we incorporating student voices in our feedback loop to better serve student needs?

Linked Learning is trying to shift an education system that’s been established for generations, so change may be slow. Ultimately, as a field, there are more questions we must address so that we move from “coming a long way” to arriving at our destination. 


On March 31, 2016 at 3:39pm, Lourdes Sampayo commented:

Don't be discouraged. This is not news. When I graduated from PVHS at WCCUSD in 1978, I took several AP classes and exams and earned a freshman scholarship to UCB. When I arrived, I was able to begin my course of study with 15 credits/units completed through AP exams. I still felt overwhelmed and out of place. My friends complained that they were stressed out and were worried about finances. We were not used to the lecture only format of most classes and certainly not used to sitting in a lecture hall with 100 to 150 other students in class. We had gone from being a big fish in a small pond to being an average fish in a very large ocean. The adjustment wasn't so much going from WBL or LL to a traditional format in college, but just going from HS to College. Unless your high school has 55 thousand students, you will still face this abrupt transition. This gap existed before linked learning, and it will exist after. Perhaps, a better idea is to have a transitional program maybe 3-4 weeks that help students deal with the changes that come with college, living on your own for the first time, managing your own time and resources, being responsible in a system where roll call is not necessarily taken and where nobody calls home except you.

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