Walking the Walk: 10 Years and Counting

Contributive Learning by The Learner First

Contributive Learning is the result of a decade-long journey that reflects The Learner First’s evolution and growth as a team. It’s the best of our learning, our practice, and ourselves, developed through our experiences as education leaders, principals, and teachers and based on evidence gathered from around the world about what students, teachers, schools, and communities truly need and are asking for.

We now have teams operating across the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

This is our way to contribute to the world.

Joanne McEachen

Waitaha, Ngāti Māmoe, and Ngāi Tahu
CEO / Founder

Founded in 2012

The Learner First was founded by Joanne McEachen in Seattle, Washington, USA in 2012. Having moved to Seattle from Aotearoa New Zealand, where she worked 20+ years as a teacher, principal, and national Ministry of Education leader, Joanne brought her expertise in educational assessment and systems design to improve educational outcomes in the US school system.

Adapting a systemic, interconnected approach, The Learner First aligned efforts at school district, school, and classroom levels by forming “Change Teams” at multiple levels of the system that worked collectively to share ideas, identify ways forward, and better support teaching and learning throughout the district. Over a three-year period, The Learner First schools across the US experienced measured progress on academic and social-emotional indicators (including student attendance, engagement, and test scores), along with staff retention rates and professional well-being.

Books co-authored by Joanne sharing insights from the NPDL global partnership.

Built on experience and success

In 2014, Joanne co-founded New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), an initiative that used a global set of tools and processes to implement competency-based learning in partner schools in Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Uruguay, and the United States.

As Global Measurement Director, Joanne designed first-of-their-kind “Learning Progressions” that could be used across countries and cultures to measure students’ collaboration, communication, creativity, and other core competencies. The NPDL partnership effected purposeful, international collaboration between schools and generated 1000+ teacher-created showcases that exemplified leading-edge pedagogy for competency-based learning.

Sharing our learning with the world.

Measuring what matters

In 2018, drawing from our global expertise in educational measurement and assessment and the evidence base collected from partner schools globally, The Learner First took another step in its evolution with the publication of Measuring Human Return (McEachen and Kane). The book lays a framework for measuring students’ self-understanding, sense of connection with others, academic knowledge, and competency—the outcomes that, together, help us contribute to people’s lives and the world. By measuring and so supporting the development of self-understanding, connection, knowledge, and competency, schools could teach students what it takes to contribute—not in a specific or standardized way, but in personally relevant, purposeful ways unique to individuals’ interests and goals.

Contribution is the ultimate application of learning, and the action most tied to our sense of well-being.

It is time to add to the world

Schools see more clearly than ever the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in supporting students’ well-being. At the same time, demands on students’ academic performance remain as high as ever, requiring schools to prioritize SEL outcomes without compromising curricular objectives.

With Contributive Learning, we give schools a process for integrating academic and social-emotional learning in everyday teaching, so that self-understanding, connection, and competency aren’t “add-ons” isolated from curricular instruction, but instead natural outcomes of academic learning.

Ready to get started?

Contributive Learning develops self-understanding, connection, knowledge, and competency.

When these come together, we add to the world. And that leads to meaning, fulfillment, and well-being.

Reach out today to learn more or get started!

Develop self-understanding.
Cultivate knowledge.
Foster competency.
Make connections.

Don’t bring down—lift people up.
Don’t subtract—add to the world.

Learn to contribute, in your way, every day.