Supporting Students’ Learning Through COVID-19: A Conversation With Big Picture Learning

Supporting Students’ Learning Through COVID-19: A Conversation With Big Picture Learning
Virtual via Zoom

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Since the start of the COVID-19 era in March 2020, many students across the United States have been upended from traditional classroom environments and placed in virtual ones. Socio-economic inequities have left vulnerable student populations feeling even more disengaged from school as they face technology gaps and increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Now, student agency is a critical component in re-engaging students and creating a more personalized learning environment.

In this joint learning experience facilitated by the American Youth Policy Forum and the Commonwealth Learning Partnership, participants learned about Big Picture Learning, a nonprofit based in Providence, Rhode Island that champions a student-centered approach. Each school in the Big Picture Learning network utilizes the Student-Centered Learning Model, which ensures that each student is supported by a small learning community called an advisory.

Participants heard directly from Dr. Sonn Sam and Eunice Mitchell, Regional Directors of Big Picture Learning, who provided reflections on why student agency is critical, the persistent challenges encountered in schools during the pandemic, and a high-level overview of their work at Big Picture Learning schools and how their framework is responsive to current challenges. Dr. Sonn Sam and Eunice Mitchell then led the invite-only session to discuss their regional work with Virginia educators and provide practical advice as they rethink schooling.


  • Eunice Mitchell
    Regional Director, Big Learning Picture
  • Dr. Sonn Sam
    Regional Director, Big Learning Picture
  • Dr. Lisa Chen
    Director of Virtual Learning for Louisa County Public Schools in Virginia


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.