Educators at This School Give Students a Choice and Voice in How They Want to Learn

Schools providing personalized learning integrate student interests and self-pacing into their curriculum by combining student-centered practices with technology. There are many approaches to personalized learning, and schools may incorporate various degrees of personalized learning methods. When implemented in a rural setting, personalized learning can provide a unique educational option for families who otherwise would not have the ability to choose from a variety of local school models that may best meet their needs. At one charter school in rural Maine, personalized learning has changed how adults run the school and how students engage with their learning:
At Cornville, we do believe that if you put a learner where they need to be when they need to be there that they will be successful. —Travis Works, Executive Director/Principal
Cornville Regional Charter School opened in 2012 with the mission to serve families in rural areas of central Maine. Cornville leaders and learning facilitators offer students a curriculum largely based on the core tenet of personalized learning: Give students what they need, when they need it. The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, recently released a set of video case studies that let you see and hear directly from people pursuing this vision:
The teachers have found ways to help my son reach his learning targets in ways that are interesting to him. —Kim Solberg, Parent
Personalized learning at Cornville has evolved since the school opened, and the school continues to transform processes and strategies to better meet student needs. Classes run on a flipped classroom approach, in which students cover learning topics independently through videos or self-directed activities and come to the teacher for clarification and feedback. Rather than complete worksheets or written tests, students can choose different and often creative ways to demonstrate proficiency in learning areas:
Students may choose the route of projects, or computer programs or making something else that shows that they understand the topic and are proficient. —Susan Muzzy, Classroom Learning Facilitator
Cornville students are not grouped into traditional grade levels; rather, students travel between classrooms where various learning facilitators address different learning targets students will need to cover as part of their individual learning plans. With the help of their personal learning coaches, students and families monitor progress using a highly integrated learning management system, along with one-to-one personal devices:
Our school looks very different than a traditional public school. One of the biggest pieces that you will see is learners moving about the building at any point throughout the day. —Ashlee Savage, Teaching Principal
Students, families, and instructors have experienced the benefits from the personalized learning environment in the classroom, but the personalization extends beyond instruction. Students have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of special courses and programming in topics such as music, agriculture and robotics, as well as group discussions in social studies, science and arts. Learners feel they have the choice and independence to really drive their own learning along their pace and aligned with their interests:
When you have a 5 or a 6-year-old come in and say, ‘Today I know it. I’ve met my learning target, let me show you!’ They demonstrate proficiency and they are like ‘Alright I’m ready, what’s next?’ They have this eagerness to keep progressing. —Denyell Suomi, Teaching Principal
New trends come and go in the education field, but personalized learning is more than a passing trend. When implemented along with rigorous standards and a growth mindset, personalized learning has the power to change how students learn. Cornville Regional Charter School provides a striking example of the transformation a school community as a whole—students, parents and teachers—experiences through personalized learning.
It is important for our kids to have that choice and voice because we are preparing them for life. We are preparing them to be self-directed, independent thinkers that are going to be able to be creative and flexible in the work environment. —Travis Works, Executive Director/Principal
Check out this video below where staff members provide an overview of personalized learning at Cornville and discuss the importance of providing learners “what they need, when they need it.”
Photo courtesy of Cornville Regional Charter School.
Vinayak Reddy, a Senior Associate at Safal Partners, brings diverse experiences from the private, public and non-profit sectors. At Safal, Vinayak has led research papers and case studies for the National Charter School Resource Center and multiple engagements with Safal’s non-profit clients. Prior to Safal, Vinayak was a Fellow with Kiva Microfunds and previously a consultant with Sense Corp. ...

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