Professional Learning


Learner variability is the recognition that each student has a unique set of strengths and challenges across a whole child framework that are interconnected and vary according to context. It embraces both students’ struggles and strengths. In concept and practice, learner variability opens up the doors to cultural responsive and strength-based, inclusive teaching and learning for each student. Learn more about the research behind learner variability by reading our white paper, Learner Variability is the Rule, Not the Exception.

Our professional learning aims to empower educators and leaders with an understanding of what learner variability is and how to design for it in their classrooms using four guiding principles.

Designing for Learner Variability Guiding Principles

Design Inclusive Environments that Foster Belonging

School environments have the potential to be a supportive environment fostering positive identity development, or a source of adversity when trust and belonging are not established. This can be particularly true for students from historically and systematically excluded groups. Students who feel a stronger sense of belonging in school typically have greater self-efficacy and academic success. Research-based practices like culturally responsive practice (CRP) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can make learning more accessible for students and foster belonging.

Design for the Whole Learner

A whole learner approach reflects the understanding that learning is an interconnected process and requires that we see our students across multiple facets, including their background, social and emotional development, cognition, and academics. Viewing students through this lens helps us to see and appreciate what strengths they hold beyond academic performance. Taking a strength-based approach is an intentional pedagogical choice to see and name students’ strengths, and design instruction that leverages those strengths. This can have a huge impact on their learner mindset and how they see themselves as learners.

Design with the Science of Learning in Mind

The science of learning can help us understand how new information gets stored in long-term memory and how cognitive load can impact a students’ working memory giving teachers insight into how to scaffold new learning. For example, how much background knowledge a student has on a given subject can affect their ability to take in and retain information. Using accessible vocabulary and chunking information can reduce cognitive load, helping to make new information easier to encode, while using strategies like spaced practice and retrieval practice can help strengthen the pathways needed to retrieve learned information when they need it.

Design for Student Agency

In order to be successful beyond the classroom, students need to develop the skills of learning, or 21st century skills, to become life-long learners. Student agency is the capacity a student has to act and exert power over their learning. This requires a safe space to take academic risks and get feedback that fosters a growth mindset. Student-driven approaches like challenge based learning can empower students to have agency over their learning and provide opportunities to foster curiosity, develop civic-mindedness, and practice creative problem solving—  giving them the skills and mindset needed to persist when the going gets tough.

Learn more about our services below and explore our free resources in the tabs above.

Services for Educators

Join Our EdWeb Webinars and Community

Our free edWeb webinars offer continuing education credits for teachers. Create a login on edWeb to explore our archives and see the range of topics we cover. Then sign up for our newsletter to discover upcoming webinars.

Services for Schools and Districts

Designing Classrooms for Learner Variability

We customize professional learning for schools and districts that support culturally responsive and whole child practices with a deep understanding of learner variability and learning sciences research.

Services for EdTech Developers

Designing Products for Learning Variability

We help EdTech providers understand what makes learners unique and how to support their needs through inclusive, research-based product design for the whole learner.

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