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E2L: Research-Based Learning

At Essential 2 Life and in the FIFTEEN Leadership program the curriculum and program is built upon a foundation of solid educational research. 

The Social Change Model - UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, 1993 The program embraces the fundamental principles of the Social Change Model. This model provides a language for what leadership is (definition), and what it can be used for (purpose). It was created by educators, for educators and speaks to leadership on multiple levels. Many higher education institutes are shifting their student development programs to utilize this model. When students are exposed to this type of learning, they are not only growing as leaders, but also preparing for post secondary success.


In the curriculum, focus in the sophomore year is placed on the individual, as the students explore personal values, goals, strengths, talents and self-awareness. Throughout the three-year experience, students participate in group - based experiential learning. Students collaborate, find a common purpose, and learn life-long strategies for handling controversy as a result of differing viewpoints. The junior-year “Through Their Eyes” experience invites students to engage in their community, by profiling an issue of significance and personal interest. 

Check out Leadership for a Better World; Understanding the Social Change Model for Leadership Development by Susan Komives and Wendy Wagner for additional information and valuable resources. 

Assess your implementation of the Social Change Model through the Socially Responsible Leadership Scale, available at 

Holistic Student Development: At every step of the process, the curriculum emphasizes the development of the whole student. Scholars have coined the phrase “self authorship” (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004) to describe the process of moving from simply taking in knowledge from others to building knowledge on one’s own initiative. This includes the shift from determining one’s self worth by the standards other’s set, to developing self identity based on personal values and goals. The curriculum gives students opportunities to acknowledge the opinions of others through dialogue and group work, while focusing on personal, self-led development including the identification of values, personal vision, and goals.

Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College reminds us that “In a turbulent and complex world, every college student will need to be purposeful and self-directed in multiple ways” (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2002). The urgent need for self-directed, self-aware and self-motivated young people to become leaders in their homes and communities will only continue to grow. But we must not wait until college to begin this process. 

Learning Communities: Life-long learning does not happen in isolation; it is a dynamic process involving purposeful interaction with those around us. Learning communities are considered an educational model that fosters the integration of academic, social, and physical elements (such as a meeting location, neighborhood, or residence). Scholars use the term “Communities of Practice” to refer to both place of knowledge (the social world in which an individual is situated), as well as groups of people who interact on a regular basis and are informally bound by shared interests and practices (Wenger, 1998). Why are these communities, and knowing how to operate within them, important in society? They provide the context through which members make meaning of information and experiences, and facilitate identity formation (Wenger, 1998).

The reality is that students will operate within multiple communities of practice all their life. The program  is an intentionally designed learning community that provides a context in which students not only learn about leadership, but also have the opportunity to practice leadership. Through training and coaching, students are able to apply positive leadership beliefs and practices within the other communities to which they belong. the curriculum is designed to support three major communities (grade level classes). 

Experiential Learning - John Dewey, American Philosopher and Psychologist “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” Dewey in School and Society, 1889. Dewey’s words epitomize the importance of providing students an opportunity to explore, grow, and develop as contributing members to society. Dewey believed students should engage in real-world experiences, and helped foster the idea of experiential learning. One Degree embraces this philosophy by striving to equip young people with the tools necessary to be leaders within their schools, communities, and society as a whole through experiential and purposeful exploration. 



  • 100% High School Graduation Success Rate

  •   94% Students in Post-Secondary Education

  •     3% Enlist in the Military

  •     3% Entered the Workforce


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