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21st Century Schools recognize that the hidden systems governing schools are often just as influential as the physical spaces. Leadership teams need to identify and eliminate the systemic and structural barriers to student engagement and achievement to transform teaching and learning successfully.

Tony Wagner provocatively asserted that “Our schools are not failing….they are obsolete.” So why is this the case? Schools often focus their change initiatives at the classroom level, pouring resources into professional development for teachers and administrators. However, the highest leverage move for schools to set themselves apart from the competition, and truly provide students an education that prepares them for the future, is to identify and eliminate the systemic and structural barriers to student engagement and achievement. 

After re-designing the Middle School at Singapore American School, and working with the University of Melbourne to research the impact of innovative learning environments on student learning, we have learned that the hidden systems governing schools are just as influential as the physical space. Schools are influenced by both physical and organizational structures that have carried over from the advent of formal schooling. These traditional ways of organizing curriculum, space, and time are barriers to the deep learning and critical thinking that our students will need to thrive in the future. This workshop will help leaders develop a higher-level, systems approach to enacting large-scale change. Participants will interrogate the implicit structures that drive decision-making at their school, impacting and often inhibiting innovative practices. Regardless of where participants are on their journey as a school, they will leave this workshop with practical tools to enable reflection and help them make meaningful change.

21st Century Schools recognize that change is as much about the systems and structures in which educators and students operate. You can’t transform teaching and learning simply by changing the attitudes and capabilities of the actors without changing the structures and systems to enable them to act in new ways. 


  • Reflect on your beliefs about student learning, and analyze whether or not they are supported by your systems and structures
  • Use tools to examine the structures in your school and consider their impact on student learning, intended or otherwise.
  • Analyze how your school’s allocation of student and teacher time supports your mission and vision
  • Explore ways that scheduling can support student agency and higher levels of engagement and learning
  • Consider how your learning space design decisions impact all of the above

Who Might Attend this Workshop?

  • School Administrators and Leaders 
  • Instructional Coaches
  • Facilities Managers and Teams
  • Finance Executives
  • Communications Directors
  • Aspiring Leaders
Who's Presenting
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