Personalized, Proficiency-Based Learning and Flexible Pathways
Like schools across Vermont, Addison Central schools are moving toward personalized, proficiency-based models of teaching and learning and flexible pathways for all students. The Vermont Agency of Education provides useful information on each of these three connected concepts: Personalized Learning, Proficiency-Based Learning, and Flexible Pathways. Each of these concepts has informed ACSD's Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements, which are in effect for Middlebury Union High School's class of 2021.
We are excited to announce that in the spring of 2018 ACSD, in partnership with the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center was awarded a $67,000 flexible pathways grant through the Vermont Agency of Education. Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, this grant is funding professional learning and collaboration for a range of stakeholders to engage in this work. Check out the "Grant Project at a Glance" below, and look here for updates in the spring of 2019.
If you'd like to know more, you can skim through an excerpt of our grant application here:
"Building Skill and Agency through a PK-12 Approach to Personalized Learning and Flexible Pathways"
PROJECT NEED and DESCRIPTION
In Addison Central School District (ACSD), we aim to develop lifelong learners who engage in high-level inquiry and design thinking and are inspired to make authentic, personalized choices about their own educational and career paths. We know that in order to maximize the potential for personalized learning and flexible pathways, we must do two things: (1) Clearly define and communicate opportunities for choice and engagement beyond traditional coursework within an equitable, unified school system; and (2) Build a systemic, scaffolded approach to support students in developing the independent learning skills and personal agency required to make informed decisions about their own learning and to see themselves as learners who follow their inspiration through rich learning experiences within and beyond school.
This grant will fund the work for ACSD, in partnership with the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC), to tackle these two core goals. Small, interconnected design teams led by a single steering committee will develop multiple, scaffolded approaches to support personalized student learning for all of our 1,653 students. The design teams will be charged to:
- deepen our partnership with PHCC and our co-exploration of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Program (CP),
- design the Middlebury Union High School Celebration of Learning; locally develop the promising practices of IB’s Exhibition (6th grade), Personal Project (10th grade), and the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project (11th & 12th grade); and scaffold these experiences for greater student success and growth through systems design thinking, and
- develop vertically coherent PK-12 Personal Learning Plans (PLP) & portfolios to build evidence and reflections of learning over time of students’ approaches to learning and learner profile attributes.
We will design all of these strands within an intentional and coherent framework, which centers on and scaffolds the growth of personalized and flexible pathways.
Strengthen and Increase Flexible Pathways in HS and Make them Visible to Younger Learners
At the heart of this grant is a collaboration between ACSD and PHCC to create another robust and flexible pathway to MUHS graduation. Over the past year, our two organizations have been in conversation about the possibility of offering the IB Career-related Program. This grant aims to establish and fund a formal co-ownership of that exploration by our two school districts.
ACSD is deeply invested in ensuring that we develop ways to provide an IB education for all of our students. By co-creating a CP pathway with PHCC, we are creating greater access for our students. Internally, we refer to this vision to open up doors as designing “IB for all.”
Here are some of the ways “IB for all” can look. At MUHS, some students will choose to complete the full DP and sit for all of the external assessments to earn the formal IB diploma. Others will choose to enroll in some but not all DP courses and can choose to sit for the external assessments or not, which allow the possibility of earning college credits, much like AP courses. By giving students multiple options for engaging in DP courses, we maximize access and opportunity as well as learning diversity within our classes. Like the DP, students could engage in CP courses at multiple levels: completing a full CP Certificate or benefiting from the availability of CP courses without earning this additional endorsement.
The CP would add a third clearly defined pathway for 11th and 12th grade students, similar to choosing the IB Diploma Program, or our locally developed Middlebury Core Program. In the Core Program, students can learn and demonstrate evidence of proficiencies by dipping into elements of the DP program they choose, courses at MUHS outside the Diploma Program, dual-enrollment, other individualized pathways, and courses in the Career-related Program.
By collaborating with colleagues across these two school districts, we will deepen our exploration of the CP as we engage in co-ownership of that inquiry to develop powerful visions of what it means to be a graduate of MUHS. Part of the design process over the grant year will consider ways to make these various opportunities visible to younger learners, so they are better prepared to make intentional choices about their high school years. Additionally, developing the Career Program with PHCC will introduce new learning opportunities for all students in Addison County, as Addison Northwest Supervisory Union and Addison Northeast Supervisory Union also send students to PHCC and they, too, would have access to newly developed CP courses.
Promising Practices to Scaffold Personalized Learning
To prepare students to make informed choices about flexible pathways and create authentic celebrations of learning, we will leverage a series of promising practices from various IB programs, all of which focus on student agency as the center of learning. Taken together, these design features within the PK-12 learning continuum will be integral, integrated, spread over time, and will inspire students to inquire, design, act, and reflect in personalized and flexible ways. We want all students to engage in multiple experiences with the freedoms, constraints, creativity, and structures that flexible pathways and personalized learning promise, because we believe that students who develop several authentic and personalized learning experiences with integrity will become more inspired learners who blossom intrinsic academic and career interests while developing skills of agency and self-understanding. Whatever path students choose, ACSD graduates will have a higher degree of college and career readiness because they will have continuously and strategically learned how to take greater ownership over their own learning, collect evidence, and demonstrate it to others.
In order to design these individual experiences deeply, design teams will explore specific promising practices over the grant period and work across teams and with the steering committee to scaffold and build coherent systems and PK-12 approaches to personalized and student-centered learning. Those design teams will focus on the following six objectives:
➤ Co-Exploration of the Career-Related Program (as described previously)
➤ The Exhibition: (6th grade; the end of elementary school in ACSD)
The Exhibition will be a “powerful demonstration of student agency” and a significant event in the life of an elementary school and student, synthesizing the essential elements (knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes, and action) of the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) and sharing them with the whole school community. As a culminating experience, design features will include an exhibition of the attributes of the IB learner profile and a shared opportunity to engage in inquiry with out-of-school time (OST) partners to “provide quality service through formal and structured opportunities… to engage youth and provide learning, enrichment, and leadership opportunities to support youth academic success and overall development.”
Students are required, through the Exhibition, to engage in a collaborative, transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. The central idea selected must be of sufficient scope and significance to warrant a detailed investigation by all students.
➤ The Personal Project (10th grade, the end of our Middle Years Program: grades 7-10)
The Personal Project encourages students to connect classroom learning with personal experience to develop lifelong learners. Projects involve students in a wide range of student-planned learning that extends knowledge and understanding and develops important academic and personal skills. Personal projects are developed and completed by individuals, but they may involve group work (for example, a performed play). While the product or outcome may be created collaboratively, each student’s individual contributions and process through the five stages of learning must be apparent: self-management, research, communication, critical and creative thinking, and collaboration.
Student work for the Personal Project is not part of any particular class, but it will be supported with weekly check-ins during a call-back period with a project supervisor. Ownership of the project must remain with the student. This long-term project is designed as an independent learning experience, some of which may leverage the expertise and resources of an OST partner coalition, continuing the threads of learning and community engagement from the Exhibition.
➤ Creativity, Activity, Service (11th-12th grade)
Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) is based on seven learning outcomes over a period of 18 months. It requires students to provide evidence toward these in their PLPs and portfolios and will serve as the basis of each learner’s Celebration of Learning in the spring of their senior year. IB articulates the specific learning outcomes associated with CAS as follows:
- identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
- demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
- demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience
- show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences
- demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively
- demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
- recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions
CAS is designed to strengthen and extend students’ personal and interpersonal learning developed throughout their PK-12 education. CAS is not part of any particular class, but it is supported by a CAS Coordinator.
The ‘Service’ aspect of CAS asks learners to be “collaborative and create reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need.” Again, this continues the thread that began in sixth grade with OST partners. Students’ ‘Service’ will create complex partnerships that have ‘reciprocal engagement’: ones that borrows from and gives to our OST partners.
➤ Personal Learning Plans & Portfolios (PK-12)
ACSD aims to develop vertically and horizontally coherent Personal Learning Plans (PLP) and portfolios to document personalized learning experiences that demonstrate proficiency in transdisciplinary knowledge and transferable skills developed from elementary school through 12th-grade graduation. The PLP and portfolio will also serve as a key structure to connect personalized learning experiences, flexible pathways towards graduation, and a shared Celebration of Learning.
ACSD’s Digital Learning Plan (DLP), adopted January 2018, forecasted this district-identified need to build coherent PLPs to “empower student-centered and personalized learning (personalized learning plans, proficiency-based learning, and flexible pathways) by using technology in new and innovative ways in order to engage individual learning styles, extend learning opportunities, support individual learning plans, and provide access to resources.” The DLP also specifically requests us to “begin to implement IB-aligned approaches to Personal Learning (plans, proficiency-based learning, and flexible pathways) for grades 6-12” by the fall of 2020.
➤ Celebration of Learning (12th grade)
Developing a Celebration of Learning will allow seniors to culminate their personalized learning pathways with a public and shared experience that is celebratory and communicative: a party about learning. While the details and logistics will be determined over the coming year, the Celebration of Learning could look like a full-day where seniors present independent work including oral presentations, posters, artwork, and technical creations and have an opportunity to hear from their peers. Our hope is that the entire ACSD community (in and out of our school) comes out to engage with and be engaged by our learners, a celebratory time also for those OST partners to reconnect with students they inspired over the years.
Using systems design thinking, the Celebration of Learning will be designed to be both celebratory and coherently built upon the the personalized learning pathways and PLPs learners began in elementary school. The ACSD board approved this framework for the celebration when they adopted the Middlebury Union High School graduation policy in the spring of 2017.