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Can I Believe These Numbers?



Our union put out the results of a recent district survey.  The number of those who responded to the survey was low in comparison to the total number of certified staff. But the number and comments related to personalized learning struck me as troubling.


Based on this data, over half of the district staff polled are not onboard with the district's vision for personalized learning.  I would argue that not knowing the district vision for personalized learning is synonymous with not understanding what personalized learning is. The mission of the Elmbrook School District to inspire every student to think, to learn and to succeed.  By personalizing learning, we hope to achieve that mission.

I begin to question have we put the phrase before the meaning?  Have we thrown out this word without intention?  Have we made it to much of another thing to do rather than a method to achieve our shared vision.

These numbers shake me to the core.  After the recent presidential election, I realized I was living in a bubble within my own state.  Now I feel like I'm living in a bubble within my own district.

Below are some comments from the survey that showed me that we may be lacking some basic PD on personalized learning.


When staff feels that they are prepared to implement PL but that they don't have the money, there is a basic misunderstanding.  I have lots of great tech tool as my fingers to make PL more efficient.  But, it's not the tech tools that bring personalized learning to life.  It does not take funding to allow students the choice in how they express mastery or allowed to have their voice heard. Goal setting doesn't require technology.  It does require PD and exemplars.  Perhaps too often in PD, we are showing these great tech tools for collecting student work rather than focusing on the purpose of that work.


Always start with the why.  If any teacher is unsure of the "why" for implementing the PL framework, we need to develop a PD framework to catch those learners (yes they are staff, but they are learners). If we expect our students to care about what they are learning and setting goals based on how the content connects to their interests and aspirations, we should demand the same from our PD. If a teacher doesn't understand why Personalized Learning informs the goals of the district and the classroom, we need to close that gap before they are expected to implement any PL practices.


I feel that there are some great discussions to be had around personalized learning.  It is not simply another model dropped on our doorsteps without research to back it up.  It was developed with research as the guide.  Every aspect of the model may not ring true to every teacher.  I think that is fine.  But we need a safe place as a part of our PD to discuss this.  


Reading these numbers make me curious of where my building stood on this issue.  In a survey of staff at my high school taken 2 weeks ago, 99% reported understanding the "why" of personalized learning.

As far as the "what" of personalized learning, these were our building results.

I am a part of my building's leadership team focused on personalized learning.  Feeling confident about the why, forces us to help staff dig deeper into what we mean when we say personalized learning. Beyond some basic elements into spaces where they feel confident enough to say that they have "Strong Knowledge".  It's great, though, to see so many staff feeling that they have general knowledge.  In future surveys, we hope to better define what we mean by this. Our team realizes this was a weakness in the survey question.

Finally, as far as the "how" of personalized learning, staff have been asked to personalize learning within their classroom and devise a plan for this.  So, where are staff as of November?


Now looking at this answer alone, I was very encouraged to see that almost 88% of staff were already implementing a plan or ready to implement a plan.  But looking at the previous question, only 82% would admit general or strong knowledge about personalized learning.  It is a little troubling that we have some teachers who may have a plan but may only have " a little knowledge" of what personalized learning is. Is this just a matter of poor question phrasing.  Or, have some staff fallen through the cracks.

Just like any good teacher, I hope my team can find a way to help our staff identify their gaps and work on goals to close those gaps in their learning.

If this is the picture at my school, I wonder what the picture looks like at other schools in my district, in my state, in the nation?

Please share.



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