The Edvocate’s Guide to Learning Pathways

A learning pathway describes the courses, programs, and learning activities that learners finish during high school matriculation. Learning pathways can be educational and vocational. When used in the singular, learning pathway defines classes, educational programs, and learning experiences that personal learners finish as they matriculate toward graduation.

When in its plural form, the term learning pathways—or any of its common synonyms, such as several pathways or personalized pathways—usually refers to the various courses, programs, and learning opportunities offered by schools, community organizations, or local businesses that let learners earn educational credit and satisfy graduation requirements.

The “learning pathway” concept nearly always implies expanding educational options beyond the course sequences historically offered to learners. The concept is typically applied to educational experiences, usually at the high-school level, that happen outside of traditional class settings or school buildings, such as internships, apprenticeships, independent research projects, online courses, travel, community-service projects, or dual-enrollment experiences, for example.

While many schools are either creating or incorporating alternative learning options for learners, educational courses remain the foundational learning experiences offered by most schools; therefore, they would still be considered one of the “learning pathways” available to learners.

While a learning pathway may encompass a broad variety of educational experiences in diverse settings, these experiences are usually connected to school courses and programs while also allowing learners to satisfy graduation requirements. Learners usually earn grades, credit, or other types of educational identification for completing a learning-pathway experience. If a learning experience is disconnected from school programs, it may or may not be considered a learning pathway.

In many cases, learning pathways let learners meet state learning standards. Educators or other school personnel will be involved in constructing, overseeing, or evaluating learner performance in a learning-pathway experience—although volunteers, mentors, and experts from outside a school may also be involved. A working professional mentoring a learner during an internship at a local company would be one example.

In this case, the professional might work collaboratively with an educator to create an internship program that provides workplace training and job experience to participating learners and is also connected to what is being taught in an educational course. Again, if an internship is disconnected from a school curriculum or state learning standards, it may or may not be considered a “learning pathway” by educators.

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