The Power of Personalization

In an earlier post, we highlighted our district’s action team that is researching Personalized Learning  Plan’s  (http://bit.ly/GExWoZ).  As part of the research, we recently asked teachers to conduct some trials with a few students, inviting them to spend one on one time with a student to discuss their strengths, needs, and their preferred learning styles.

The pilot enables us to see what the process might look like and what logistics and challenges lay ahead – but it also showed the power of personalization and how the one on one time helps build relationships that power learning.

Katie Ernst
7th Grade English
Stilwell Junior High
ernstk@wdmcs.org

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How did you structure or set it up with students?
I talked with my students on a collaboration day when there were only about 3-5 students in the classroom. I explained what a PLP was and how it could help students and teachers. I showed them where it was located in Infinite Campus. I asked questions, typed their responses into Infinite Campus, read it back to them, typed my responses and read that to them as well. I let them read it before I saved it.

How many students were involved?
I tested 3 students.

What types of information did you record?
I asked them to identify their strengths, weaknesses and personal learning styles.  I also asked them to set one goal: either academic, a personal, or a career goal – and this was also recorded into Infinite Campus.

Were students will to share – or do you have to prompt them for information?
They all answered pretty quickly and didn’t require much prompting. They knew more about learning styles than I thought they would.

How long did it take per student?
About 20 minutes per student

What was their reaction to doing this? Did they respond positively or did they question why it was being done?
Very positively. I talked to their parents at conferences about it as well.

What do you see as the challenges that need to be addressed?
We need to have consistency in language as well as what gets recorded.  Time is also a huge challenge, as well as whether the student is comfortable with the adult.  We also need to clarify how the information will used by teachers.

From your perspective, was it worthwhile? Is there benefit to you and your students?
Yes; I enjoyed the one-on-one time with the kids. That is such a rare experience anymore that is so rewarding. It was good to hear kids talk about how they view themselves. I could envision myself going into a student’s PLP in the future, to gather more information to assist when I am trying to problem-solve a student concern.


Jas Overlin

Extended Learning Program Teacher, 7th and 8th Grade
Indian Hills and Stilwell Junior High Schools
overlinj@wdmcs.org

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How did you structure or set it up with students?

Stage one involved talking with a few students and explaining the purpose of PLP’s—to better understand and help students achieve goals and to help define any areas of concern.  Stage two involved talking with all my 7th grade students, and stage three was discussing and implementing PLP’s with some parents/students during conferences.

How many students were involved?
Stage one: five students
Stage two: approximately 80 students
Stage three:  approximately 10 parents/students

What types of information did you record?
Academic strengths/needs, and Behavioral (both social and emotional) strengths/needs

Were students willing to share – or do you have to prompt them for information?
Most were hesitant at first; they were more concerned as to whether other students would hear (during stage one).  However, by mid-way through, they were willing to share freely.  Prompting only came from me when they were stuck and couldn’t think of an answer.

How long did it take per student?
20-25 minutes for each student, and an additional 10 minutes with the parents.

What was their reaction to doing this? Did they respond positively or did they question why it was being done?
Because there was a high level of trust between me and my students, they were very positive about the process.  The parents were the ones that asked more questions (who would see this, what was the purpose, would it influence placement in programs, etc). Once those questions were answered to their satisfaction, they, too, were very receptive to the process.

What do you see as the challenges that need to be addressed?
Time, time, time!  Plus, a quiet, one-on-one experience.

From your perspective, was it worthwhile? Is there benefit to you and your students?
I think that this could be one of the biggest factors of success if there is teacher buy in throughout the district.  If students see that their thoughts and goals are being addressed year to year, they will have one more layer of trust and accountability – as well as another example of how their teachers care about them and their success.  In fact, I noticed that several students left the one-on-one session with a new “swagger”; you could tell that they were positively impacted.

Megan Thomsen
At-Risk Teacher
Stilwell Junior High
thomsenm@wmdcs.org

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How did you structure or set it up with students?
I asked one student to participate and explained a PLP and asked them to participate. 

What types of information did you record?
I recorded their strengths, needs, and learning style(s).

How long did it take per student?
About 20 minutes.

What was their reaction to doing this? Did they respond positively or did they question why it was being done?
The student was very positive about the entire process. In fact, the student was able to make a connection between the PLP and our district vision survey that asks students “does an adult know and care for you?”  The one on one setting for a PLP allows us the ability to create positive relationships with individual students.

What do you see as the challenges that need to be addressed?
Time.  Twenty minutes per child is a lot, and we need to conduct the conversation in a private setting without other students in the vicinity.

From your perspective, was it worthwhile? Is there benefit to you and your students?
Even though it takes 20 minutes, yes, it is worthwhile.  Even with just one student, I could see what an impact it made on him…. the conversation was powerful for building relationships.

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