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Developing the Design Principles

The goal of the Design Principles project was to translate key findings from the science of learning and development into concrete practices and structures that can guide equity-driven transformation of schools, districts, and youth-serving organizations. The Learning Policy Institute, Turnaround for Children, and the Forum for Youth Investment formed the core project team, which sought to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Co-create a set of tools for stakeholders in schools, district offices, and education support organizations that describe and provide examples of what schools and classrooms look like when they are aligned with science of learning and development (SoLD) principles.
  • Generate products and materials that are focused on equity, relevant for key audiences, accessible and practical for use, and extensible to other tools, and that highlight the interconnectedness of SoLD principles.


While led by the Learning Policy Institute, Turnaround for Children, and the Forum for Youth Investment, the core project recognized the importance of leveraging the deep knowledge and expertise of the educational ecosystem, including educators, counselors, curriculum and tool developers, and community-based organizations, in the development of the design principles from the project’s onset. To enable this form of co-creation, the core project team created three intersecting committees to advise the project (see Acknowledgments for full list of committee members):

  • The Senior Science Advisory Committee: learning scientists and human development experts who were tasked with ensuring that the design principles accurately captured the science of learning and development and supported comprehensive child development and whole child education.
  • The Advisory Committee: association and system leaders, policymakers, and subject matter experts who were instrumental in advising the project on the nature and presentation of the design principles, how to address barriers, and how to leverage policy and practice opportunities to amplify the work.
  • The Design Team: experienced school designers, school leaders, and experts in the fields of learning, health, and wellness, who were instrumental in co-creating design principles materials and identifying resources and illustrations of practice that captured robust, equity-oriented examples of the science of learning and development in action.

Initial Design and Prototype Development

Once committees were established, the core project team began creating the vision and overall structure that could guide the development of design principles. As a starting point, the core project team identified the Guiding Principles for Equitable Whole Child Design as a framework, which was a tool and graphical representation emerging from early conversations among SoLD partners. With an initial framework in hand, the core project team moved quickly to elicit the knowledge and expertise of their committees in the development of the design principles and their scientific and field grounding.

To do so, the core project team organized and facilitated virtual convenings to engage committee members at different stages of the work and collected feedback to guide ongoing iterations. Initial convenings in February 2020 focused on introducing members to the project and their roles and collecting preliminary feedback on key challenges and concepts that should be considered and reflected in the final products. From these initial meetings, the core project team synthesized feedback and outlined next steps to begin building out the design principles materials; namely, a set of goals for youth learning and development that served as building blocks for the project.

In the spring and summer of 2020, the core project team organized additional convenings with committees to receive feedback on the emerging project materials. At this juncture, the committees provided input on additional concepts that should be presented in the framework, identified structures and practices that should be reframed or elevated, and pointed the project team to exemplars and case studies that could illustrate our ideas in action for our target audiences.

With this feedback in hand, the core project team began collaborating with Design Team members and select members of the Advisory Committee to develop the content that would be incorporated into the playbook and its accompanying web interface. Specifically, the core project team developed and refined content by soliciting feedback and support from committee members based on their area of expertise and capacity. In turn, the external partners reviewed materials to make sure content was accessible and clear and suggested additional practices, resources, and examples that should be featured in our final products.

The final phase of the project focused on dissemination strategies and frontier issues that the project team should consider as it moved to launch design principles materials. To this end, the Senior Science Advisory Committee provided input on important concepts and strategies to support the development of critical skills, habits, and mindsets, and the advancement of trauma-informed practices, particularly in light of the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and ongoing public displays of racial violence. In addition, the Advisory Committee suggested approaches that could help practitioners implement the design principles, generated strategies the core project team could consider to combat misapplications, and identified other aligned initiatives that could help amplify or reinforce this work. Advisory Committee members also provided input on the content and format of the materials, noting how the project team could make the materials accessible and useful to school and district leaders.