The XQ Super School Project, an ideas competition sponsored by The Emerson Collective, led by Laurene Powell Jobs, seeks to rethink high school education in America. Participants are challenged to design a new approach to high school education that better suits the needs of 21st century students. The aim is to research, design and implement transformative ideas that will have real impacts on student achievement.

As Architects with a strong focus on Education, Ruhnau Clarke Architects is immersed in the design of educational environments every day. We approached this challenge openly, asking "if limited only by our ideas, what could we come up with?"

Though finalists, who move onto the development stage to compete for the $50 Million sponsorship money, won't be selected until April; we can put our research and ideas to use in inspiring our everyday work.

In this series we present our research and design concepts as thought starters to developing a new vision for what high school education might look- simply called REVERB.

Series 1: DiscoverStudents in the 21st Century, Youth Experience and Aspirations, The Science of Adolescent Learning

The Science of Adolescent Learning

Reverb will make learning engaging and valuable for the student by applying the insights about how young people learn including self directed learning, trial and error learning, and multidisciplinary applied learning. In combination with proper advisory support and stimulating environment, these types of learning will promote a student’s passion for learning as the catalyst for future success.

Self directed learning gives the student a choice of what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn rather than the traditional teacher-directed learning. Students will identify the problems and how they solve them with teacher facilitators providing guidance and goals. It individualizes teaching, engaging students by personalizing their learning through their unique interests, search for identity and learning preferences. Similar to competency based learning, students play an active role how they learn, receiving more support in areas as needed, but with the ability to advance quickly to more challenging content.

Learning by trial and error, students will adopt a growth mindset and recognize non-cognitive factors such as determination as critical to success. Science has found that an individual with a growth mindset will continue to develop mental capabilities, persevering through setbacks, while an individual with a fixed mindset will interpret failure as a lack of innate ability and give up. By learning through trial and error and being praised for effort and risk, students will develop self confidence and motivation to continue to learn and develop their abilities.

Multidisciplinary applied learning will create connections across subject areas with a “real life” relevance to students. Content is relatable to a variety of students due to a mixture of overlapping disciplines, different learning styles, and the students ability to approach content with their own unique interests and skills. Active exploration extends learning beyond the classrooms to professional internships, field-based investigations, and community exploration.