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Making Bold Changes Through Personalized Learning

By: Travis Lape on April 25th, 2018

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Making Bold Changes Through Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning  |  Classrooms

In Harrisburg we have been implementing personalized learning for a little over 5 years. In our 5 years of implementation we have learned a ton and have started to create a solid roll out plan:

  • We currently have three cohorts that each have roughly 94 learners and 4 facilitators at the elementary level.
  • At our middle school level we have a slightly different model where our learners have voice and choice in their day by being empowered to schedule their day through a scheduling software.
  • At our high school it is more about the pace of learning and what courses learners can take.

We focus heavily on the 16 Habits of Mind and make sure that our learners as young as 7 years old start to recognize what is best for their learning.

This change in our school structure in Harrisburg started with our educators - the facilitators in our district are leading this charge. They believe that they can make a difference by changing up the structure. This cannot be a top down movement. When you think about all the changes it takes to make this work, you need the educators driving it.

As an administrator it was my job to support them. I had to make sure I gave them the tools they needed to drive this new learning environment.

I still remember a time when the teacher stood at the front of the class and taught a lesson to everyone. We know that not every learner needed that lesson, but we taught it because the curriculum told us to.

BOLD Changes

To make BOLD changes, we need to empower our educators to take risks and think differently about how our schools are structured. In Harrisburg at our elementary level, this change has been made by doing away with the grade level focus. We have 94 learners in a cohort with 4 facilitators. This allows for flexibility and meeting learners where they are. We have to take the competition out of school and one way to do that is by building a community of learners. At our middle school, we have been focused around empowering our learners to drive their learning through scheduling their day.

Overall, to have a BOLD school feel you need to make sure that you are using the best instructional practices to meet the learners’ needs. This can be done, but you have to be intentional with what you are doing. We have taken those best practices and said we are going to focus not on grade levels, but the learners and what they need. I am so thankful that we have a BOLD school that is thinking about each learner. Here are some videos of what learning looks like in Harrisburg South Dakota:

What a day looks like

Facilitator testimony

Learner testimony

Parent testimony

About Travis Lape

Innovative Programs Director at Harrisburg School District

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