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Opinion | Learning Strategies

How Do You Include Your Community in Creating Your Vision for Personalized Learning?

By Sam Peterson     Aug 22, 2018

Over the past year, we’ve collected dozens of stories from educators and school leaders around the country, each at varying stages of personalized learning implementation in their schools and districts. Many of these accounts clearly illustrate both the challenge of answering the above question as well as the benefit and absolute necessity of doing so. Some of these educators will be joining us at the EdSurge Fusion Conference in October, working to help attendees find their own answer to this same question.

Understand your students’ needs:

One hardworking educator (and Fusion speaker), Farhat Ahmad, knew that compliance-based data collection, which often shows little regard for student feedback, risks further alienating an already disenfranchised student population. Yet, as Ahmad explains, for educators willing to engage those same students on a personal level and offer a meaningful analysis of the data collected, an impactful and productive outcome awaits all involved.

Avoid the roulette of school models by engaging all stakeholders in the beginning:

Collaboration and communication between schools within a given district must be factored into the district’s overall vision. Failure to include all stakeholders in the vision-setting process can lead to inconsistency, or what Anthony Principe refers to as a roulette of school models. This feels like an especially apt description, as the variety of instructional philosophies he’s seen come and go through his Boston-area school district over 30+ years in the classroom can only be compared to games of chance. The moving target approach to academia presents an unfair and unanticipated challenge for students, who must navigate a path with no clear objective. Ultimately, these students are left to fend for themselves as they piece together the bits of their collective educational experience moving from one school to the next.

Create a vision that can scale:

By contrast to Principe’s experience, we can see a shining example of scalable personalized learning in Jill Edwards’ district, where the successful student journey begins in the first days of elementary school and is clearly communicated to each stakeholder at every step along the way. Commitment to a consistent vision across the entire district means that each student who arrives at Florence High School has been guided through the years with a meticulous focus on data, learning targets, and individual needs from their elementary and middle school teachers. With careful attention to the whole child and the lifelong learning experience, an incomparable environment for personal achievement has been created for these students as they enter their high school years.

Include experiences to build empathy among parents:

When it comes to building a community vision, family matters. Involving parents directly in the learning experience—whether by assigning them homework, sending them to bootcamp, or building a virtual community for them—has proven to be wildly successful for school models around the nation. Of course, sometimes it’s just a matter of offering parents the peace of mind that comes from being involved in the conversation.

How do you include your students and community in creating your vision?

We’d love to hear how you’re tackling the challenge of creating an inclusive vision for your school model and collaborate with you directly on meaningful and long-lasting solutions.

Determining how best to meet the needs of the whole learner requires a holistic view—taking into consideration learning sciences, community development, and social-emotional research. At Fusion 2018, we’ll be examining personalized learning for the whole learner through three distinct lenses:

  • Vision
  • Implementation
  • Research & Evidence

The vision track aims to understand how school leaders are building their school models to support individual learners through academic, social, and emotional pathways. Throughout our series of spotlight talks, workshops, and collaborative lunches, we’ll be working to answer a number of essential questions that may be helpful in creating the right vision for your school model.

Join us at the EdSurge Fusion conference, October 2-4, 2018, to hear from an all-star cast of education thought leaders as we get down to the nitty gritty details of building a vision for the whole learner.

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