Real world learning

Opportunities for learning are everywhere around us.

To develop the broader, deeper competencies in the MyWays Student Success Framework, students need to get out of the school building.

Students work on all four MyWays competency domains when they learn in adult settings. They connect with mentors and other adults who open access to new opportunities. They build much needed social capital, especially for disconnected youth. By linking real-world learning experiences with academic work, the Wider Learning Ecosystem offers an on-ramp to the adult world and an acceleration lane to life after high school.

The NGLC MyWays project offers resources and tools to help schools engage the Wider Learning Ecosystem:

  • Why do young people need real-world learning?

  • How does real-world learning promote equity and opportunity?

  • What does high-quality real-world learning look like?

  • How can we use our community assets to make learning more authentic and relevant for our students?


Explore the 5 Zones of the Wider Learning Ecosystem

We needed to redefine ‘school’ as a porous organization and redefine ‘partnership’ as a core design element, not an add-on.
— Michele Cahill

Most learning experiences outside of school fall into 5 zones:

School-based extracurriculars

“After-school” activities like theater productions, business start-up clubs, and newspapers that emulate the real world

College-based learning

Dual enrollment and other opportunities that provide expanded subjects to study more deeply and require greater independence

Career-related learning

Internships, paid work, and career exploration activities that raise awareness of career options and increase social capital networks

Community-mediated learning

Youth development activities in the arts, civic engagement, and service that develop identity, agency, and social capital

Everyday informal and formal learning

Rich sources of authentic learning from friends and family, online learning communities, and “unschooling”

At EL Education we use the term fieldwork, rather than field trips. Fieldwork is...not just taking a tour of an historic home or walking through an aquarium. Fieldwork is what adult professionals do: research in the world.
— Ron Berger

Take the Next Step
The Real-World Learning Toolkit

Are you ready to do more with these ideas? Use this MyWays Real-World Learning Toolkit to create a learning design that extends beyond a school building, taps into the Wider Learning Ecosystem, and provides students with the authentic, real-world learning they need to thrive in today’s world.

Key Elements Tool

Explore sample experiences, assess and improve existing real-world learning experiences, and apply the six key elements to design powerful real-world learning.

5 Zones Tool

Reflect on personal experiences, inventory existing Wider Learning Ecosystem offerings, and identify potential opportunities aligned to the 5 Zones.

Social Capital Tool

Assess the types of social capital in real-world learning experiences and identify strengths, weaknesses, and ways to improve real-world learning through social support, connections, and relationships.

Readiness & Preparation Tool

Use this self-assessment to examine readiness of your school and wider community and prepare learners, educators, and community partners for real-world learning.


Explore the Report

Read “Learning Design Construct 2: The Wider Learning Ecosystem,” an excerpt of Report 11, Learning Design for Broader, Deeper Competencies to discover the benefits of this learning construct.

Go to Big Question 3

Now that you’ve explored the Wider Learning Ecosystem, check out the rest of the big question about redesigning LEARNING.