On February 14, 2019

Rutland students discover independent learning

By Casey O’Meara

A great deal of attention is paid to personalizing learning for students. Often this results in matching student interests with paths to meet curricular requirements. Some students have a variety of interests and they work within the confines of curricular requirements to explore these areas. Other students feel they don’t have anything they are passionate about discovering in school and find their ability to personalize their learning impossible.

What if planning for future decisions was facilitated through students’ naturally occurring experiences, allowing them to design their futures through their stories, and their decisions? What if this increased a student’s attention and devotion to a topic or skill that they desired to excel in and outside of school?

Vermont’s Act 77 asks schools to consider satudent-centered classrooms through personalized learning. In Addison Rutland Supervisory Union (ARSU) we are exploring student-centered learning for K-12. During the 2018-2019 school year teachers facilitated Personal Achievement Transformation Highway paths (PATH). Personalized Learning Paths (PLP) account for the ARSU’s mission: to guide each student to meet or exceed standards and develop skills for college and career readiness. As well, ARSU’s vision – to engage learners in authentic, experiential, individualized learning – is actualized through Personalized Learning Paths. ARSU’s PLP is an invitation to the individual student to discover what matters most him or her as he or she considers his or her education.

How can experiences, interests, and other aspects of students’ lives connect to what matters most to students? The construction of an action plan is designed through knowledge of self as students reflect on achievements they have made and their PATH as a learner. This look back to move forward is a personal reflection on “who am I?” for a student.

“Who am I?” leads to “Who I am”

The development of a PLP asks students to gain a deeper knowledge of self before transitioning to goal setting and eventual discovery of “Who I am,” connecting to the current year’s PATH. In ARSU students engage in an annual cycle to reflect on experiences connecting with content and skill development in and outside of school, to imagine visions and plans as they transition as students, applying new knowledge to new situations and action.

Life experiences, good and bad, become moments for learning and provide instances to construct knowledge. Reflection on the meaning of memorable personal experiences provokes students to consider topics that are theirs, not mandated and seemingly foreign. At different points in their PLP, 6-, 11-, 15- and 18-year-olds want to discover meaning on their own.

As students explore learning through their experiences, they connect the dots of their lives, and they invent an intentional future; one they desire to live.

Casey O’Meara is the director of curriculum at Addison Rutland Supervisory Union.

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