Iowa Ideas: A Push Toward Learner Centered Education

Feb 27, 2017

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, we kick off a series of conversations about issues affecting Iowans, in collaboration with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, called Iowa Ideas. First up: K-12 education.

Host Charity Nebbe talks with educators from around the state about the push from lecture style learning to a more learner-centered model of education. During this hour, Trace Pickering, executive director of the Iowa BIG Program in Cedar Rapids and associate director for Education Reimagined in Washington D.C., talks about Iowa BIG and how students are working to solve real world problems in the Cedar Rapids area.

Nebbe also talks with Scott Palmer, an instructor with the APEX program in Waukee schools, and Laura Wood, a 21st Century Learning Specialist with the Green Prairie and Great Hills Area Education Associations. 

Pickering says the Iowa BIG Program is really an educational model designed by the Cedar Rapids community for the Cedar Rapids Community. 

"We put 60 adults back to high school as students, so they could experience high school with their adult experiences. And they came back and saw good things and things that needed adjusting," Pickering explains. "We gave them a blank sheet of paper and asked, given what you know now about this experience… what kind of school would you design? And they designed Iowa BIG." 

Jemar Lee, a junior at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School and a student of Iowa BIG, says having a project to work on is far more engaging than staring at worksheets all day long. 

"So, with these projects, they don’t know the outcome of them. Even if my project were to fail, I still learned a whole lot. Not having to sit at a desk and not being lectured to for eight hours a day, and having the freedom to come work on a project, makes me enjoy my learning a lot more," he says.

Learner Centered Education will be the focus of the first Iowa Ideas symposium Tuesday, February 28th at the Hotel at Kirwood Center in Cedar Rapids.