D51 Learning Model

D51 is building a learning model for the 21st century

District 51 schools have been actively laying the foundation for personalized learning for the last two years. Now, entering the third year of this transformation, schools will continue to work on that foundation to build a learning model that supports all learners in Mesa County and fulfill the district's vision to Engage, Equip, and Empower our learning community today for a limitless tomorrow.

East Middle School students on computers

Why are we transforming?

A one-size-fits-all approach to learning made sense when the U.S. public education system was created in the 19th century. Back then, educators assumed the best way to prepare people for factory jobs that valued memorizing tasks was to create an education system that valued memorizing facts and testing how well students remembered those facts on exams.

Thanks to technology and human innovation, the world is changing more rapidly now than at any other time in history. Public education needs to change, too, in order to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce. 

The jobs gaining steam now value creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. It makes sense that the best way to prepare students for those jobs is to educate them in a way that also values those skills. The District 51 Learning Model will still teach students “the basics” and more, just in a way that better suits the era in which they’re growing up. That means engaging students in their education by tailoring lessons and projects to meet their learning style preferences; equipping them with the skills and tools necessary to succeed; and empowering students to own their education, believe they can learn anything with enough time and effort, and persist if they don’t succeed on the first try.

two happy children at chromebook computers


How does it work?

Teachers can customize education for students by differentiating the learning experience with a combination of large group lessons, small group work, and individual study, aided by technology.

In order for the learning model to work, it’s also necessary to build a Growth Mindset culture. All schools will keep working on building a Growth Mindset culture this year using five steps:

  1. Learn about your brain and how you learn.
  2. Recognize Growth and Fixed Mindset traits.
  3. Become aware of and use your inner voice.
  4. Focus on process, strategies, and effort.
  5. Set a challenging goal to achieve.


What is the D51 Learning Model?

The D51 Learning Model includes Performance Based Learning, which gives students a chance to be in control of their learning. While the district previously talked about Performance Based Learning as a stand-alone concept, schools now refer to our education system as the D51 Learning Model. That’s because there are many districts working on performance-based or competency-based learning systems, but the D51 Learning Model is unique to us.

“There’s a lot of PBLs in the world, but there’s only one District 51,” Superintendent Ken Haptonstall explains.

The D51 Learning Model promotes the idea of students learning at the pace it takes for them to truly understand concepts. Instead of the old system of moving all students along at a single pace, the goal is to help students each get the education they need at the pace that’s right for them.

students participate in OWL Outdoor Wilderness Lab


What’s new in 2017-18?

This year will be more about continuing to build a Growth Mindset culture and refining best practices in all schools than introducing new concepts. Instead of expanding the number of demonstration schools in the district, all schools will take steps forward in the transformation.

Students will continue to set goals for themselves and acknowledge their strengths and areas they need to work on. They’ll also learn self-awareness and how to advocate for themselves. That means asking for help when they’re struggling, asking to move ahead when they aren’t, and showing their learning in ways that match their learning style.

District 51 educators have rubrics for most core subjects and will continue to perfect those rubrics this year. Staff will continue work on building rubrics for electives. 

The D51 Learning Model is getting national attention - Find out more below

Getting Smart Podcast - Listen

Competency Works 17-Part Series - Start here

D51 Learning Model Brochure - Read here
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