Emergent Learning is Engaged Learning

Updated: Aug 21, 2018

- Written by Haley Leopold, Lead Teacher -


Traditionally, curriculum is paced and delivered according to established standards. The learning and subsequent results are pre-planned without allowing much room for learner-initiated exploration. After realizing that this was the norm in our current education system, I wondered, What if things were different?


At Springhouse, we engage in learning that is different - learning that is emergent. A pedagogical approach commonly found in Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environments, emergent learning refers to education that is responsive rather than prescribed or predetermined. According to Elizabeth Jones, co-author of Emergent Curriculum, in her NAEYC article entitled “The Emergence of Emergent Curriculum,” this approach taps into student interests and “focuses on the process of learning” rather than meeting specific standards of content knowledge. Springhouse values emergent learning and structures curriculum in a way that allows for it to occur.


When learning is emergent, it engages learners because it responds to their passions and curiosities. In his book, Sustainable Education: Re-visioning Learning and Change, Stephen Sterling asserts that learning "has to be meaningful, engaging and participative, rather than functional, passive and prescriptive" in order for learners to feel as though they have ownership of their learning.


Here at Springhouse, we are dedicated to reimagining the practice of education, which includes the ways in which we structure learning in secondary schools. Since emergent learning is a well-researched educational pedagogy for young children but not for older youth, Springhouse is charting new territory by offering adolescents an emergent learning environment that is structured to allow for spontaneity, curiosity, and freedom.

Published on July 16th, 2018

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Springhouse Community School is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is also a community of people with respect for diversity. The school emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, students, family members, volunteers, subcontractors, and vendors. Springhouse is an equal opportunity employer. In accord with federal law and applicable Virginia statutes, the school does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political affiliation, disability, or status as a veteran in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the school.

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