Monday, October 26, 2015

PLP Implementation Reflection

It's the end of October, the time change occurs this weekend, and teachers are out straight with all of the duties, obligations, tasks, meetings, and things to do that are part of the profession.

For those who have started the PLP implementation process, it's probably a good time to pause and reflect on progress. Here are some thoughts.

Setting Goals

Using the Personal Learning Framework, students may be nearing the completion of the Identity phase. Introductions have been written, students have taken an initial measure of their strengths and challenges, and they have been working on developing positive relationships in the classroom. 

If they haven't already, now is the time to begin the initial goal-setting of the Growth and Reflection phase. This year, Team Summit at Main Street Middle School has shifted their goal-setting to encompass one goal in each of the following areas: academics, transferable skills, sustainability, and extracurricular activities. 

Using the SMART goal framework, students are self-selecting their goals, identifying why they are important and what principles and values they see reflected in those goals, and developing methods to track their success.

Growth Mindset

In conjunction with their goal-setting, students are developing an understanding of Dr. Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset. Academic language related to growth mindset is being incorporated into language arts classes so that students will be able to effectively self-evaluate and reflect on their progress. 

Digital Citizenship

It is always a good time to continually review elements of digital citizenship and to keep digital citizenship as a constant expectation in the classroom. Although it might be difficult to complete a piece by piece digital citizenship curriculum, employing components of that curriculum throughout the school year can be a great way of continually reinforcing your digital expectations and to create digital norms in your classroom.

Along with Common Sense Media's Digital Citizenship curriculum, Google has continued to develop an array of digital citizenship materials that cover a wide range of topics. You can find additional resources at the PLP Pathways website or by simply doing some quick research.

Parent Communications

As personal learning plans become more integrated into classrooms and learning communities, it becomes even more important to reach out to parents and the community to explain this element of Act 77. In a previous blog we discussed developing different streams of information to reach out to your parents and interested parties. 

If you have developed some structures for communication, now might be a good time to reach out to parents for feedback that will inform your work in the future. Quick Google Forms surveys, one or two phone calls to parents, or meeting in person can pay big dividends in terms of support and community understanding.

Professional Development and Resources

To help support your efforts with PLP Implementation, the Middle Grades Collaborative is supporting the PLP Pathways website. This site is designed as a guide for PLP implementation but also as a space for the collaboration and sharing of ideas by educators across Vermont. 

In addition to this blog, PLP Pathways hosts a short television show and regular webinar to discuss issues related to personalized learning. If you have questions, concerns, or would like to collaborate with educators from across the state, don't hesitate to follow PLP Pathways on Twitter @plppathways, on Google+, or by sending us an email:


An essential element of the personal learning plan is the regular reflection by students on their growth and progress. Incorporating these exercises, in whatever mode you see fit, can provide crucial information for learners and teachers alike. As calendars get jam-packed and time becomes even more limited, now might be a great time to take a breath, slow down, and reflect on the year's progress. 

Just as we recommend this to students, teachers who can find time to regularly reflect on their work will find that regular reflection can lead to celebrations of hard work, innovative teaching measures, small victories, and the recognition of colleagues and collaborators who make our work so enjoyable. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

PLPs and Parent Communications

PLPs and Parent Communications

Late September and early October bring leaf-peepers, spectacular fall foliage, and hopefully, some rhythm to the school year. Among all the activity, and depending on school implementation of personal learning plans, teachers may be considering how to best communicate their work with PLPs to parents and the community.

Parent and educator involvement in the PLP process, including easy access to, and monitoring of the PLP plan, are critical elements of Vermont's Personalized Learning Program. Here are some options to consider when thinking about introducing the PLP process to the community.

Parent Education and Planning

Developing a plan for reaching out and communicating teacher, team, and school plans about the implementation of PLPs can significantly improve parent understanding  of the process and expectations for student work.

To make this successful, teams and teachers should look at the calendar and develop a process for distributing information in a meaningful and cohesive manner. Calendar dates should also be given consideration as events such as Open House and student-teacher conferences can be excellent opportunities to keep parents and the community informed about PLP implementation and what that means for their students.

Educational resources and information for communicating to parents are widely available through the Agency of Education's Vermont PLP Process website. You can also find information on the PLP Pathways web page.

Electronic and Social Media

Depending on teacher and team social media presence, popular platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ can be excellent venues for the distribution of PLP related material. Individual, team, or school websites can also be great places to distribute links and material to the community.

Obviously, this requires an understanding of the community's use of technology (and perhaps additional education). That said, these tools can be excellent for supporting implementation of the personalized learning program.

PLP Based Parent Conferences

Conference formats and expectations vary widely from school to school but utilizing the PLP as a foundation for student-parent-teacher conferences can be a great way to introduce parents to the PLP program. This option requires thoughtful planning and clear expectations for all parties.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • What elements of the PLP will be viewed or discussed in the conference?
  • What role will the student play -- leading the conference, participant, presenter?
  • What advance preparation is necessary so that students and parents can move through the conference format without confusion or questions?
  • What goals and evidence do students need to have on their PLP to most accurately reflect their academic achievement, social growth, and strengths and challenges?
  • How can the conference be formatted to maximize parent understanding of both the PLP process and student progress?
  • How will teams and teachers document parent involvement in the PLP development process?
  • How will teachers and teams develop feedback systems to identify elements of the conference experience that need improvement?

Admittedly, this is a lot of work and it requires a good deal of planning and preparation. Teams and teachers in the first year of implementation may choose to simply introduce the PLP process to parents at conferences.


Efforts to educate parents and the community about Act 77 and Personalized Learning Plans can help teachers, teams, and schools develop support for these educational initiatives. By planning ahead, utilizing existing structures where possible, and through the thoughtful implementation of new media and technology, educators can ease the transition to the personalized learning model.