Fall Conferences for Personal Learning Plans

September 29, 2017

academics

The northeast point on our Academic Compass is Personalized Learning. One of the ways we focus on fulfilling this promise is through our Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs). These plans serve as both a document and a process. The document is different for each student, while the process tends to be more consistent, engaging the student, parent(s) and teacher(s).  As students mature, we expect a deeper level of thinking from the student to set and achieve goals. Self-evaluation exercises high-order reasoning, and the process helps the student discover his/her own learning style as well as develop self-advocacy skills. 

The document highlights specific skill or behavior strengths and deficits that data show are areas of relative excellence and need, respectively, for each student.  The data are usually a combination of standardized test scores, individualized performance measurements from our various online platforms, in-class assessments, and teacher observations.  An improvement plan is written out stating how the teacher and other faculty members will support the child in the areas of greatest need. Another important piece of the plan is what the student and parents are expected to do outside of school to support growth in these areas of focus.  Finally, SMART goals are developed as a means to measure growth.

The process starts in August, when teachers begin to analyze the available data on each student in their classes. They observe and assess each student during the first several weeks. Teachers also send home parent questionnaires as a way to gain further insight into each child’s strengths, passions, learning styles, summer developments and growth opportunities.  Teachers draft initial recommendations for each student’s PLP in September in preparation for the Fall PLP Conference. That first conference is meant to put the tentative PLP in front of the parent for their approval and partnership. The teacher, student and parent collaborate and share feedback during the meeting, and following agreement on the goals, the plan is implemented. In December, teachers send home an update, or progress report, on each of the goals on the PLP.  Then in February, we conduct our second planned conferences of the school year, in which goals are updated or sometimes even changed, depending on the level of success with each goal.  Finally in May, we conduct the final planned conference, in which we wrap up the year’s goals, celebrate achievement, and discuss recommended summer work and potential goals for next year.

Each year it is the school’s goal to develop our students deeper appreciation for critical thinking and advanced problem solving skills, and the PLP is an area in which each student can develop a personal sense of control and mastery. Educators refer to “metacognition,” the process of thinking about how we think as human beings.  The PLP is one of the processes we use to build upon this skill year-over-year. It also serves to help foster a Growth Mindset in each of our students, in which one’s ultimate goal is continual improvement rather than simply “chasing grades.” Every single student has unique opportunities for growth, and this process helps to develop a skill set that will serve them well throughout high school, college and in to their professional lives. 

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