Learners' Permit: A Pedagogical Model for Advancing Epistemic Agency in Students


by Sigrid Frandsen, C3 Partner

Educational theories, policy makers, and entrepreneurs have long sought a remedy to the lagging progress of American schools by global standards. Measures of systemic failures abound; from international standardized tests, to retention and graduation rates, to anecdotal narratives of students being “left behind” (Rich, 2012).Yet, it remains a long-standing practice to idealize the perfect single solution to an underperforming system, despite the clear challenges of identifying one such silver bullet.


The public education space is steeped in theories, approaches, and measures. Instructional models  and performance expectations are introduced and retracted with such regularity and speed that often there is not adequate time to fully implement and evaluate the models or approaches in relation to the intended indicators of success. As new models are developed to reflect emerging learning theory, or to address perceived deficiencies in student performance, they often fail to meet the expectations of the stakeholders. Most notably, in the 30 years following publication of "A Nation at Risk" (1983), educational spending has doubled, but student achievement has increased only marginally (Kern, Innovating Toward New Learning Models, 2011).


Perhaps there is not a static “one size fits all” solution to be found. Rather, a solution should make use of the approaches and strategies that are relevant to the local environment. Learner Epistemic Agency Pedagogical (LEAP) Model, a dynamic, student-centered, interdisciplinary, differentiated, experiential  model, is designed to recognize the value of existing models, approaches, and theories by allowing for the unification and synergy of best practices in upper elementary and middle school classrooms while promoting the agency of each student.


An Ecosystem for Aspiring Entrepreneurs 

Considered the most prestigious and well-funded education business plan competition, since 2010 the EBPC has earned a name for itself by attracting innovative ideas from around the world and spotting winning education innovations early on. Previous finalists have gone on to grow their ventures, attract investors, and have a positive impact on education. The competition is distinguished by the size of its prize pool, the crowd-sourced judging process (which includes teachers, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers), and both the breadth and depth of the ecosystem we offer aspiring entrepreneurs. What sets the EBPC apart in an increasingly crowded field of business plan competitions is not only the close contact entrepreneurs have with other players in our education ecosystem, but also our unshakeable commitment to moving research into practice, a tenet first espoused by Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. The foundation of the EBPC is our belief that education is different: in order to be truly effective, ventures in this space must rest upon established research in the field.