Leading P-12 Transformative Initiatives in Personalized Learning: Empowering Teachers and Students to Assert Agency in Their Own Development

Leading P-12 Transformative Initiatives in Personalized Learning: Empowering Teachers and Students to Assert Agency in Their Own Development

Christine McCoid (Hazlet Township Public Schools, USA), Marla Beil (Middletown Township Public Schools, USA), Stephany Hesslein (Middletown Township Public Schools, USA), Tracy Mulvaney (Monmouth University, USA) and Lauren Niesz (Monmouth University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9242-6.ch012

Abstract

Innovation P-12 school settings is happening every day in schools across the country. This chapter focuses on three transformative initiatives emphasizing personalized learning of both students and teachers. Three of the authors are presently employed as school- and district-level administrators in various central New Jersey P-12 school districts. In addition to serving as administrators, they are also completing a doctoral program in educational leadership at Monmouth University, where the final two authors are employed. A key component of the doctoral program is the implementation of a transformative learning project (TLP). The first two projects discuss innovations that encourage elementary students to take agency in their learning through student-led conferences and the SPARK program. The third project emphasizes one principal's dedication to providing personalized learning in staff development, empowering teachers to take control of their own professional growth. All projects provide a comprehensive view of the implementation process through a leadership lens.
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Letting Students Steer The Ship: Placing Students At The Helm Of Their Own Learning Through Student-Led Conferences

Introduction

It is essential that students have classroom experiences that promote the skills needed to be successful in our ever-changing world. These skills include the ability to think, analyze, weigh evidence, problem solve and communicate effectively (Wagner, 2008). Our education system needs to guide students in achieving their potential in the innovation era. It is time for the field of education to meet the needs of 21st-century learners. The world needs self-motivated individuals to solve complex issues, to persevere when challenges arise, and to learn from experience to overcome obstacles with unique solutions. If the goal of the education system is to produce an innovative workforce, there is an urgent need to redesign and repurpose schools. Paul Tough (2012) reaffirms that there are more important aspects of school than content and achievement, when he states:

What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence. (Tough, 2012, p. xv)

School should be a place where students prepare for the world ahead, in which students are able to develop the skill to ask new questions, solve new problems and create new knowledge. These are the skills the future demands. In order for today’s students to survive in tomorrow’s world, they will need to be flexible, adaptable and lifelong learners. To prepare for their future, students must be involved in their learning. By providing students with autonomy in learning, students are able to achieve at levels greater than anticipated.

This initiative centers around the implementation of student-led conferences at the elementary level. Student-led conferences are a framework for providing students with opportunities to direct their learning, develop a sense of agency, critique their work and establishing a positive belief about their own abilities to accomplish their goals.

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Setting

The student-led conference initiative took place in one third-grade classroom, at Middletown Village Elementary School in Middletown Township School Distrcit. The class involved in the project was comprised of one teacher and 21 general-education students, 16 of which participated in a student-led conference. Of those 16 students, six were male and 10 were female.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Directed Learning: The ability for a person to formulate a plan and identify the tools, resources and strategies needed for one's own learning. Behaviors and characteristics associated with self-directed learning are related to intrinsic motivation, integrity, agency, diligence, perseverance and grit.

Learning Experiences: The models, experiences, and learning opportunities that exist for learners.

Collaboration: Two or more people working together on a task.

Agency: A belief that one’s actions can lead to changes in one’s life.

Student Voice: The distinct perspectives and actions of the individual student.

Active Learning: Any approach to instruction in which all students are asked to engage in the learning process.

Personalized Professional Development (PPD): Learning opportunities designed and selected by educators for their own development in personally determined goals.

Parent-Teacher Conference: A meeting with the teacher and the parent of a student, in which a discussion of student growth and progress is discussed. The student is not present during the meeting.

Professional Development (PD): Informal and formal learning opportunities for educators to continue professional growth and training.

Portfolio: A collection of student-selected work, comprised of items and reflections from all aspects of the learning process.

Self-Assessment: The process in which a person determines the value of the work he produced. The evaluation includes the quality of work, the effort put forth and strategies used to create the work.

Efficacy: A belief a person has about their individual ability to accomplish a task.

Student-Led Conferences: A meeting with the teacher, parents and student in which educational goals and progress are discussed with all present members participating equally. The elements of a student-led conference include (1) goal setting, (2) portfolio creation, (3) reflection, and (4) the conference.

Self-Reflection: Introspection on one’s own beliefs, learning, and growth.

Student Agency: The level of control, autonomy, and power that a student experiences in an educational situation.

Student Empowerment: The process of students becoming stronger and confident in controlling one’s learning.

Portfolio Item: A student-selected piece of work included in a portfolio as evidence of learning, accompanied by a reflection.

Student Choice: Individual students having the ability to make decisions about what how when and where they learn.

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