Calgary Changemaker School and Edutopia’s 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021

We Read Edutopia’s 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021 and the Calgary Changemaker School Comes Out on Top

The Calgary Changemaker School was first envisioned by founder and Head of School, Kristi Kraychy, many years prior to the existence of COVID19 with a simple premise: children who love learning, will learn more. Despite the many challenges and unexpected adjustments posed by the pandemic in our first year of operations, Kraychy continues to believe that social-emotional learning, physical health and mental health needs have to come first before any kind of academic or other pressures because learning can’t take place for anyone when they are unwell.

Now the research is catching up to what many of the greatest educators already intuitively knew. From reframing our notion of “good” schools to mining the magic of expert teachers, Edutopia shares a curated list of must-read research from 2021:

Highlights from Edutopia’s 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021


It’s time to rethink our definition of what a “good school” is, researchers assert in a study published in late 2020.⁣ That’s because typical measures of school quality like test scores often provide an incomplete and misleading picture, the researchers found.

The study looked at over 150,000 students and concluded that emphasizing the social and emotional dimensions of learning—relationship-building, a sense of belonging, and resilience, for example—improves high school graduation and college matriculation rates for both high- and low-income students, beating out schools that focus primarily on improving test scores.⁣

The findings reinforce the importance of a holistic approach to measuring student progress, and are a reminder that schools—and teachers—can influence students in ways that are difficult to measure, and may only materialize well into the future.⁣


Many classrooms today still look like they did 100 years ago, when students were preparing for factory jobs. But the world’s moved on: Modern careers demand a more sophisticated set of skills—collaboration, advanced problem-solving, and creativity, for example—and those can be difficult to teach in classrooms that rarely give students the time and space to develop those competencies.

Project-based learning (PBL) would seem like an ideal solution. But critics say PBL places too much responsibility on novice learners, ignoring the evidence about the effectiveness of direct instruction and ultimately undermining subject fluency. Advocates counter that student-centered learning and direct instruction can and should coexist in classrooms.

Now two new large-scale studies—encompassing over 6,000 students in 114 diverse schools across the United States—provide evidence that a well-structured, project-based approach boosts learning for a wide range of students.

In the studies, which were funded by Lucas Education Research, a sister division of Edutopia, elementary and high school students engaged in challenging projects that had them designing water systems for local farms, or creating toys using simple household objects to learn about gravity, friction, and force. Subsequent testing revealed notable learning gains—well above those experienced by students in traditional classrooms—and those gains seemed to raise all boats, persisting across socioeconomic class, race, and reading levels.


READ THE FULL ARTICLE: The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021

Note: Edutopia is a trusted resource for “what works in K-12 education”. Edutopia provides research-based articles sharing how to adopt or adapt best teaching practices and telling stories of innovation and continuous learning in the real world. Edutopia partners with the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Research branch which conducts rigorous research in collaboration with university partners, research firms, and leading educators to identify and evaluate replicable practices at the student, teacher, and school level that profoundly and positively impact the course of learning and lifelong achievement.

Calgary Changemaker Students at Forest School, December 2021

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