Learning Productions: Beyond Project-based Learning

Allen Riley, Grace Freedman, Brian Cohen, and Calvin Stalvig - Beam Center
Juan Pablo Sarmiento - New York University

In this white paper, Beam Center outlines its pedagogy of “Learning Productions”, centered on active processes of learning, building, and sharing that promote agency and growth. Learning Productions embody real-life creative projects as they occur in professional and artistic contexts.


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Many organizations use overlapping technical and/or creative disciplines to support full spectrum youth development (education and career pathways, social-emotional well-being). We imagine that they, like us, seek to more fully describe and clarify how their work aligns with the priorities of school-based educators, social service agencies, and government and private funders; that being thought of as a provider of “arts education,” “workforce development,” ‘social-emotional learning,” “digital literacy,” “STEM/STEAM,” does not accurately capture the learning, growth and opportunity youth experience in their programs and could limit these organization’s access to broader partnerships and funding.

Coined in conversation with Teachers College professor and researcher Thomas Hatch, the concept of “Learning Production” captures Beam Center’s philosophy and direct work with youth and educators. We define Learning Production as an active process of learning, building, and sharing that promotes agency and growth. Learning Productions are designed to embody the knowledge and beauty of real-life creative projects as they occur in professional and artistic contexts (“in the wild”) and yield tangible, functional products.

Rather than an exercise in terminology, we find that the term Learning Productions succinctly illuminates our own core ideas. We hope this attempt to better define “what we do” invites others to ask “what does that mean?” and perhaps provide a new lens through which to see/name their own work. This Learning Productions framework is a working idea; we invite others to help us elaborate and refine the concepts further.