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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Personalized Learning: Core Beliefs to Get Schools From “Here to There”

CCE works to create a critical mass of schools that exemplify personalized, competency-based, and engaged learning approaches when educating students. CCE’s Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN) is designed to support schools in developing educational experiences that are individualized, project-based, and attuned to the unique academic and social-emotional needs of students. CCE is committed to putting students at the center of their learning, so that they will become thoughtful learners and graduate prepared for the 21st-century world. As school staff work to transform their schools into personalized learning schools, CCE guides them through a process to break out of the traditional school mold. 

It is not easy to bring the entire community together to create the best personalized learning school environment that will give all its children the opportunity to succeed as creative, critical, and productive members of society. As MA PLN developed, it became important for CCE to identify a philosophy and process for transforming conventional schools to personalized learning. We established core beliefs for moving schools towards personalized learning, as well as a systematic set of practices to support schools in the process of “getting from here to there”.  Though identified here for personalized learning, this philosophy of core beliefs in effecting change has proven applicable for any school transformation effort.

The CCE team endorsed three core beliefs for school communities to embrace: shared vision, autonomies coupled with responsibility, and strength-based thinking. All three are important because they help schools collaboratively address the specific needs of their community. Moving from established school practices to personalized learning principles will take reflection, careful planning, high levels of cooperation, and an authentic adoption of these core beliefs.

Shared Vision refers to teachers, support staff, teacher union, administrators, and the district—as well as parents, students, and local community—striving toward a common set of goals. A central element to establishing a unified vision must be a common desire to transform the school into a personalized learning school. It is key that this process of defining a common purpose include all stakeholders from the start to ensure cohesive educational efforts and greater commitment by all. Staff in a personalized learning school must collaborate to reach their shared vision. The process ensures that everyone in the school embraces moving in the same direction. 

Autonomies Coupled with Responsibility refers to the ability of all participants in a school community to make important educational decisions, share responsibility for implementing those decisions, and assume ownership for the outcomes of those decisions. All stakeholders have shared power and responsibility for developing a common set of goals and in shaping the educational and social processes to realize those goals. This school-based decision making requires the involvement of teachers, support staff, and a new role for administrators as facilitators. Since all MA PLN schools will become autonomous schools, a governance body will be created to assure site-based decisions in staffing, school calendar, curriculum and assessment, professional development, and budget. Personalized learning schools should use these autonomies to pursue their personalized learning goals, while problem-solving with district and state education leaders to remove policy obstacles that stand in their way.

Strength-based Thinking refers to sharing and utilizing all the human resources that students, parents, school staff, districts, and local communities bring to creating a personalized learning school. This core value towards school change is closely aligned to what we want for all our students. To truly personalize the instructional program in a school it is critical to understand the cultural context of the school and its community. Strong partnerships can be created with families and community members when you value their importance in the educational process. Teachers bring gifts of insight, intuition, and instructional and organizational experience. Personalized learning strategies should be developed from the grassroots and focused on a unified vision built on the strengths and assets of the community.

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