Thursday, October 27, 2016

Personalized Learning Plans 101

Personalized Learning Plans have been one of my favorite initiatives and targets of professional development over the past two years.  Hazen has been fortunate to have some wonderful mentors in this process, such as Peoples Academy and Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, as well as our invaluable partnership with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. Today, I would like to share some of the ways we implement them long before students start to think of college or career.  

At Hazen, we have realized that the earlier the realization of self, and the establishment of who students are as learners, the better off their high school experience will be.  Some may think that seventh grade may be too early to ask students to think about what they want to do after high school, but on the contrary, the earlier students establish self-awareness, the better they achieve in high school and beyond.  

While some middle school students may know what they want to be when they grown up (I certainly did not), others may need the extra catalyst in exploration.  Do I prefer math and science, or am I an English Language Arts/Social Studies-type student? Or,  Do I learn better by listening, or by reading? What about students who may wonder why they’re the only one who would prefer working by themselves, as opposed to working with their peers on a group project.  

Personalized Learning Plans at the middle level primarily focus on these explorations, rather than a twelve-year-old wondering What kind of doctor do I want to be?

Some basics that parents may want to know about their students’ Personalized Learning Plans...

1.  The actual "PLP" is a private Google site, meaning only people who have permission to access it may view it.  After some intensive work last summer at the Middle Grades Institute, a team of teachers designed the layout of the page using Hazen's academic structure as well integrating ample research and some tried and true models.

2.  At the middle level, PLPs are designed to bring self awareness to students, in both academic proclivities and general interest, as well as establishing goal-setting strategies. I have designed a "playlist" of tasks that the whole middle school follows, focused on identity and interests at this point in the school year.  As students get more comfortable adding to their PLPs, they will begin to add evidence of proficiency in each of the subjects.

3.  Every student’s PLP site can be accessed from any google browser he or she is signed into.  Each student should also have a folder in their google drive called "PLP", where some items have been worked on prior to being published on the actual site/  If you have a middle level student, you can ask them to view their PLP and the work they have done thus far.

We've already written a brief biography, crafted some goals and brainstormed steps to achieve them, and have allowed students to personalize the site to aid in buy-in.  The long-term goal in this process is that students will learn to gain initiative to add to their own site independently, perhaps as they feel they have reached another milestone on their way to a long-term goal.  Students are at different paces already, but are supported by teachers and a self-paced structure.