Student Outcomes
Chapter: Concretely Defining Student Outcome Themes – 1/2

Bringing focus and clarity into our pursuit of student outcomes

Once you have a set of themes aligned to your vision, it is now time to think about drilling down on each of these themes to make them come alive with specific student actions. This would help in the following ways:

  • Articulating what each of these themes include and do not include helps clarify what we want for our students
  • This process helps bring clarity and critical questions to thinking about the vision and acts as a two-way process that allows you to inform both your vision and outcomes
  • It also helps define specific, observable actions for tracking and evaluating progress

What we have done here is to try and articulate each of the themes under the PADA framework better.



The theme of Proficiency includes all the academic, career oriented, linguistic skills and tricks that will open doorways to opportunity. The key outcomes under Proficiency are:

  • reading,
  • writing
  • math
  • STEM
  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • aesthetic appeal
  • artistic curiosity
  • creative expression

The goal of Proficiency is for our students to be able to, want to and have access to knowledge which is a revolutionary idea that we take for granted since if we were to look back, access to knowledge has been rare in our history.  We have always been constricted by what we think of as “Academics” – the theme of Proficiency helps us move away from those constraints while keeping at its hear what is critical for our students.

A majority of the students in the communities we serve, traditionally do not have access to high rigour academic content – the work students are doing is not challenging, they are not being asked good questions, most of them are just writing things down and continuing with their day in school.

A key lever for our students to succeed within the current system is academic knowledge and skills. But when we talk about academic knowledge and skills, it goes beyond just the content within the standards or the curriculum but also the skills and tricks needed to navigate the complex world of higher education and work environments while accessing information locked in our society. When both the content as well as the skills is challenging to grasp, the extent of cognitive load on the students is huge. When we think about proficiency, it is bringing this content-skill interplay closer to our students, improving their automaticity and therefore making latching on to new ideas easier. Proficiency also lends itself to agency with students being able to take ownership of their learning and being able to be excited about learning, ideas and knowledge in itself. Lastly, proficiency is also about ‘learning transfer’ – effectively and continuing applying the knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes that were learned in one learning environment to the other.



The theme of Awareness focuses on the understanding of the self and of the social, political, and cultural context in which students learn and grow and unlearning the majority narrative. This focuses on the unpacking the various identities that we all carry and understanding their intersections, seeing the strengths of who we are and what we have to offer by the means of our present and our histories and exploring our relationships with those around us as individuals as well as a part of a system in light of power and privilege.

The idea of Awareness is rooted in the ongoing understanding of a collectively, contextualized vision of a community. In order for us to understand the values, mindsets, aspirations and beliefs of the parents, students, other key influencers in the community; it is critical to have a historical understanding of the socio-cultural and political context that our students were born into.

Historically, education has been about perpetuating self-hate in the marginalized communities with active messaging around assimilation and codes of “success”.

Focusing on Awareness, connects students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to academic knowledge and intellectual tools in ways that legitimize what students already know. It is about accommodating the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity in a learning space.

As Wisdom Amouzou says

Student outcomes must channel the indigenous traditions of living and loving of their ancestors. This can be contextualized to the various communities they come from and can’t be generalized. This gets to that basic goal of education a child so they can learn what it means to live and love peacefully in this world, which some argue is all we’re really trying to do. This includes the basic “academic” discourses, and the “character/spiritual” learning that all children crave. As a result of the fact that our children are not inheriting a perfect world but one that’s poisonous for some of them, then student outcomes must also be focused on channeling the indigenous traditions of resistance of their ancestors. Student outcomes here takes a broader lens and is really more outcomes for their social conditions.  The first answer was the soft side to equity work. This answer is the hard side, let me teach you how to dismantle masta’s house, sort of work. This is typically where most will start running into trouble within their schools or organizations. What I’ve always seen if you drive towards this in a particular sort of way, then one result is always action. And action gets us in trouble. This is where we focus on understanding the history of these poisons, how they work, where they work, who benefits, who doesn’t…all that jazz. Then we learn the various ways to resist and let students pick for themselves what fits for their life goals and journeys. But the most important outcome here is internalizing a commitment to dismantling these poisonous systems and then actually practicing. Speaking truth to power. Challenging power. Taking back power. It’s very addictive. It’s dignifying. And best of all, it gives students hope.

Alongside Proficiency, when we foster critical thinking, real-world problem solving, meaningful personal reflection, collaboration, and the recognition of multiple perspectives, we prepare our students to be active, critically conscious participants in society with a proud but sober understanding of their own strengths and prior knowledge in pursuit of learning and navigating complex systemic injustices in order to have real choices in life

You can watch teachers, students and parents from New Zealand share about this idea of Ako , responsive and reciprocal learning relationships. The video talks about seeing our students’ cultural identity as a part of who they are and bringing it into the classroom to add value to the learning culture.

The examples in this section are mostly from the United States of America and may not necessarily be relatable to your context. Having said that, it is imperative for each one of us to unbundle the idea of culture, identity and social consciousness in light of the history of our context for us to be able to engage in meaningful and authentic conversations with our students.



Use these questions below as a guide for reflection


  • Apart from the state prescribed subjects, what do you believe are the critical skills that your students need to open doors to opportunities?
  • What are the constraints of the traditionally defined buckets under the umbrella of Academics in your context?


  • What makes the conversation of culture, identity and social consciousness difficult in your context?
  • How can we see students as cultural beings whose lives have been influenced by various historical, social, political, economic, and geographical circumstances?
  • How can you integrate the ideas under Proficiency and Awareness in a way that it does not keep the socio-cultural contexts of our students out of the scope of what we and the world believe to be ‘strengths’?

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