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  • Writer's pictureLaura Sandefer


The learner driven approach inspires, equips, and connects young people who embrace a Hero’s Journey to make principled decisions towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life because:

  1. The energy behind learning – and especially transformational learning – comes from the curiosity and drive of an individual learner supported by the community. The freedom to choose, supercharged by archetypal stories, is the rocket fuel of learning.

  2. The time tested tale of human development that has shaped civilization through the ages is that of the Hero’s Journey. In it, the heroes who are on a quest and supported by their community, search for their version of a worthy grail, which ends up changing them in the process. Being aware of the parts of the Hero’s Journey helps the learners bring more intention and awareness to their path and choices. By nature, it also includes critical rites of passage celebrated ceremoniously within the community.

  3. The responsibility for setting the contracts that will form a community – along with choosing recipes, processes and examples to solve real world problems – develops complex problem solving skills and a sense of due process and justice in action.

  4. Socratic discussions develop listening skills, logic, perspective, and judgment that lead to powerful critical thinking.

  5. Multi-age studios mean learning can be shared peer to peer and within squads through critiques and joint projects in a way that shares and accelerates learning in an exponential way and includes high levels of fun and engagement.

  6. Offering self-paced work in an environment where many types of gifts are celebrated, and improvement is praised rather than held to artificial adult standards, leads to an appreciation of excellence from within. Using trial and error experimentation includes experiencing the joys and fallouts of the process of learning.

  7. Over time, through self-management and self-governance, learners shift from “me and now” to setting goals for the day, week, session, and year. They lengthen time horizons in a way that expands and deepens relationships with the use of Running Partners, squads, studios, and their campuses.

  8. Character development comes from making courageous choices in the face of real ethical dilemmas. This etches habits into the soul. All of the learning above requires permission to fail early, cheaply, and often to learn from mistakes. Young heroes often have the experience in non-learner driven contexts of being ordered about by adults who may not be operating from the learner’s best interest. This unconstrained power on the part of adults must be limited by agreements made between them and the learners or learning shuts down. This happens when young heroes lose the freedom and responsibility to choose, which is at the core of free will. Properly protected from the misuse of adult authority, young heroes in learner driven studios:

    • Learn to learn by internalizing recipes, processes and mental models as habits;

    • Learn to do in a way that delivers real world skills; and

    • Learn to be by etching moral habits and ancient archetypal lessons deep in the soul.

All of this leads to a next great adventure in life, that eventually blossoms into a calling that changes the world.

(I thank Andrea Loewen Nair, co-founder of Infinity School, an Acton Academy, for her editing help.)

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