Monday, September 28, 2015

Are Relationships the Key To Good Goals?

As the school year progresses, students should be working their way through the Identity stage of the Personal Learning Framework. As noted in our last blog post, not only can this serve as a great way to welcome students into the learning environment, it can also help educators begin to develop personalized relationships with students.

As teachers move their students through the Identity phase, they should be considering how students will bridge from the Identity phase of the Personal Learning Framework into the Growth and Reflection phase.

In the current model, students begin the bridging process through the identification of specific learning goals. It's important to understand that even if the elements of the Identity phase are not complete, teachers should be developing a learning progression that will land students in a place where they will be able to self-identify goals, monitor and reflect on growth, and independently repeat this process as they become independent learners. This is also a great place to incorporate concepts of growth mindset, mindfulness, and resilience.

But how can we implement this process in a way that increases student motivation and engagement? Too often I hear teachers pulling out the SMART goal model and too often I hear kids lamenting their inability to achieve goals not due to skill or subject, but because they just aren't engaged enough -- they lack the "want to".

Perhaps we should be looking back at the Identity phase as a dynamic, personalized landscape for the development of goals that really matter. By leveraging what we learn from students through their biographies, principles and values, and community, we could possibly help students develop more relevant, engaging, and meaningful goals that lead to heightened student interest and increased motivation.

For example, students might be encouraged to set goals related to their extracurricular activities, hobbies, or activities outside of school. What's vitally important is that students see the goal setting process as something that occurs throughout the fabric of their lives, in school and out.

By paying careful attention to the student's developing PLP, and especially the elements of the Identity page, educators may find that good, positive relationships lead to goal setting that is more meaningful, personalized, and productive.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Identity, PLPs, and the Learning Community

Personal learning plans can be an ideal platform for starting off the new year and getting to know the new students who have entered your learning community.

This year, after a brief primer on digital citizenship, students immediately began work on their Identity page. There are several huge benefits to teachers who initiate the personal learning process at the beginning of the year.

First, teachers can emphasize important elements of the 21st century classroom. These might include digital citizenship concepts related to putting our best digital footprint online to discussions of appropriate personal information and privacy. Teachers can use these "teachable moments" to set year-long expectations and classroom protocols for the use of technology.

Second, through observation and task selection, teachers can quickly identify the technical strengths and challenges that new learners bring to the learning community. Can't insert that image? Don't know how to label a file? Trying to crop a picture? Need help formatting the Google site or following instructions? These issues can help teachers zero in on the needs of their students. Down the road, each of these questions can be parlayed into skills work and lessons that will improve student performance (and can be evaluated using the Agency of Education's Transferable skills).

Third, and as a language arts teacher, perhaps most importantly, students provide teachers with a biography that can be evaluated as a norm/standards referenced writing piece. This highly motivating writing requires very little prior knowledge. After all, who do students know better than themselves? Yet the structure of their paragraph writing, ability to use the writing process, and finished product will give the instructor an immediate understanding of student writing ability.

At the end of the day, using personal learning plans to welcome students to your learning environment can be a highly effective, informative, and meaningful learning experience that can get your year off to a great start.