The conventional model of schooling is outdated and overdue for replacement. As learners make their way through high school, survey results show that close to 66% end up disengaged. Those who successfully navigate the system gain a narrow set of academic skills that may or may not align with their individual needs, interests, and strengths. And as a side effect of conventional schooling, learners often form fixed mindsets about their abilities and see their value and identity through the narrow framing of academic ranking systems.

Learner-centered education is a distinct educational paradigm that offers a more holistic approach to meeting the needs of every learner, with the goal of helping youth thrive and build fulfilling lives. It embraces the unique talents, interests, and potential of every learner and collaborates with learners to design learning experiences and pathways tailored to their interests, needs, and aspirations that help them pursue their potential.

Yet, such learning environments are far and few between as learner-centered education struggles to gain traction within the broader public K–12 education landscape.

Despite numerous efforts over the last century to reform and transform conventional education, the hallmarks of the conventional model remain entrenched. In partnership with Education Reimagined, this paper offers a theory-based framework for understanding why established schools struggle to change their instructional models, and then offers insights to help learner-centered models take root.


  • Thomas Arnett
    Thomas Arnett

    Thomas Arnett is a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute. His work focuses on using the Theory of Disruptive Innovation to study innovative instructional models and their potential to scale student-centered learning in K–12 education. He also studies demand for innovative resources and practices across the K–12 education system using the Jobs to Be Done Theory.