Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Continuum of Motivation: Moving from Extrinsic to Intrinsic

Motivation has a great impact on the learning process. While some people learn more by outside influences, others may achieve more by their personal aspirations. Whatever the situation, everyone involved in any learning process should know how motivation affects learning. The Continuum of Motivation graphic below is a snapshot of what moving from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic might look like as learners progress from teacher-centered to learner-driven environments.

Continuum of Motivation TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at bit.ly/continuum-motivation* Graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.


Instrumental is a similar system in education as the factory model that encouraged rewards and consequences. We are so used to this system that we became comfortable with it and find it difficult to change. “Students” especially high school students may ask questions like “what is my grade?” or “is this going to be on the test?” Some “students” know how to “do” school to just get through school. Others just want to follow the rules where others are not motivated because they lost interest, are not successful, are bored with school or feel no connections to the teacher, school or learning.


Social is where learners want to be accepted as part of a group. They seek approval of their peers and want to please their teacher, parents, and peers. They are motivated by looking good and measure how they perform with others especially their peers. Friends may mean more to them then how they do in school. They are still motivated to learn driven mostly by extrinsic factors.


Achievement means learners demonstrate that they want to learn and have a desire to succeed in school. This is also where they want to work well and be successful more than being one of the in-crowd. They choose the evidence that demonstrates mastery of learning and how they met their learning goals. This is where they begin developing a growth mindset of believing in themselves and that they know they can learn.


Self-Actualization is about learners being invested in their learning. They are involved and immersed in the learning process because of their love of learning. At this point, a learner’s eyes are open that it is all about them and how they learn that drives them to want to learn more. It could be learning a new skill, attaining new knowledge, creating something they never thought they could build, or pursuing their purpose. In self-actualization, they have agency and know they can learn anything they want to learn if they put their heart, mind and soul into it.


The Continuum of Motivation does involve learner voice, choice, and engagement. All of the continuums have elements that drive the learner to build agency. This continuum and the other continuums moving to agency will be featured in our new book, How to Personalize Learning, to be released Fall 2016. All the continuums will include additional references and research that support how the continuums support learners, personalized learning and moving to agency. 


Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth (http://sylviaduckworth.com) from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Engagement 3/6/2016.

*This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey of Personalized Learning, LLC (c) on 3/6/16 and published 3/22/16. For permission to adapt, distribute copies, or to use in a publication, contact Personalize Learning, LLC at personalizelearn@gmail.com.

Other Continuums moving to Agency

Continuum of Choice
Continuum of Voice
Continuum of Engagement



Cherry, K. (2016, January 15). Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What's the Difference?http://psychology.about.com/od/motivation/f/difference-between-extrinsic-and-intrinsic-motivation.htm

Toshalis, E. & Nakkula, M. J. (2012). Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice. http://www.studentsatthecenter.org/topics/motivation-engagement-and-student-voice

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Educator with a Maker Mindset

Maker education and the concept of Makerspaces are popping up across the education field as more people are embracing the idea of learning by doing and creating. Tonight in #plearnchat we thought we’d discuss The Educator with a Maker Mindset with Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein as our knowledgeable co-host on this subject.

Our big question at the heart of our theme was:

How can educators develop a maker mindset
that supports and reinforces personalized learning?

As usual in our chats, we used the Q1, A1 format with 6 pertinent questions under the umbrella of the big question:

  1. What do you believe are the skills, roles, characteristics of the educator with a maker educator mindset? 
  2. Which maker educator characteristics do you currently possess and use? Which would you like to further develop? 
  3. How will developing your skills as a maker educator help promote personalized learning for your learners? 
  4. What changes can you make to develop your own maker educator mindset which in turn will help you with personalizing learning? 
  5. What skills or strategies will you use to reflect on your own progress towards developing a Maker Educator mindset? 
  6. What are examples of making that can be done in school settings and promote personalized learning?

Thanks to Dr. Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein for being the co-host for 3/21/16 #plearnchat on The Educator with a Maker Mindset.

Dr. Jackie Gerstein's byline is, "I don't do teaching for a living. I live teaching as my doing . . . and technology has amplified my passion for doing so." Gerstein has been teaching in-person and online for several decades. Currently she teaches master's-level online courses in educational technology for Boise State, American Intercontinental, and Western Governors' Universities.

She believes that one of the roles and responsibilities of the 21st century educator is to share resources, ideas, and instructional strategies with other educators.

Jackie actively blogs at  https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/jackiegerstein

Additional Resources referenced from Jackie's blog:
Student Voice Comes With Teachers as Listeners
Giving Students a Voice Models High-Quality Learning Processes
Today’s Education Should Be About Giving Learners Voice and Choice.
Show Learners The Possibilities and Get out of the Way

Latest post from Jackie for Personalize Learning
Really Seeing Each and Every Learner

Jackie created a Pearltrees for all the resources that were shared tonight > > >
Pearltrees: The Educator with a Maker Mindset

Being a maker educator often requires developing a new mindset; a new set of skills and roles. Our PLN jumped right into the conversation with their ideas and beliefs around the skills and characteristics of being an educator with a maker mindset included:

Jacie Maslyk @DrJacieMaslyk

"Teachers should embrace creativity and innovation, be flexible, and willing to fail. All must be modeled for students."

Shelly Vohra @raspberryberet3

"Allow learners to take ownership of their learning; Teachers should let go of control; allow learners to experiment & take risks, fail & try again."

Lauren Stout @HSNMediaCenter

"Making makes us self confident learners too! The more we make the more we are empowered to share this learning disposition."

Our conversation evolved to the concept that we are all makers. We must find the making that engages us and invests in our passions. Educators determined that making does involve personalized learning as teachers unleash control and allow learners to choose their projects based on their interests and giving them a voice in their learning. Matthew King, @Kingoflibrary. shared how "he began with maker education implementing design challenges and has a plan to move toward real problems within their school and community." It’s these types of conversations, the sharing of ideas; that make #plearnchat empowering to educators.

Here are some of the insightful tweets educators shared during this discussion:

GoGuardian @goguardian

"We'd argue that creating something = personalized = #makered. They all hold hands. One in the same."

Rola Tibshirani @rolat

"It is a transformation of a thinking process from problem solving. collaborative feedback, creativity & a learning community."

Gee Know Loo Ion @ginoloko

"Each student has a special way of learning. Knowing it is half the battle."

Congratulations to Sue Cusack @SueCusack for winning our book, Make Learning Personal

Sue Cusack is an Assistant Professor in the STEM Division in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University. Her area of expertise is the inclusive use of instructional and assistive technologies in support of student-centered learning. Sue is also a member of LeselySTEAM, a small team that has launched a Makerspace to provide a new way for Lesley students and our community partners to engage in learning and inquiry-based exploration.

"#makered is defined by its "human-centered" orientation, 
a natural fit for personalized learning"

Sue Cusack, Assistant Professor
Lesley University
Graduate School of Education
Cambridge, MA
scusack@lesley.edu (email)
@suecusack @LesleSTEAM (Twitter)

Save the Date

Next #plearnchat is in 2 weeks Monday, April 4th, 2016
at 7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT

Topic is "Voice, Choice, and Authentic Learning"
with co-host David Truss, @datruss

We would love to continue the Educator with the Maker Mindset conversations with you in our comments. We archived the entire chat below using #storify for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Personalized Learning Through the Eyes of a Child

Guest Post by Pam Lowe, Educator, Marketing Associate, and Personalized Learning Coach 

We’re learners even before the moment we are born. Nearly every observation made as babies is tucked away as a memory of a lesson learned. We all begin as learners naturally making our own discoveries. We are curious about how things work, and experiment with our own ideas. Our inner spirited learner says, “Get out of my way!” as we yearn to take command of our learning.

Recently for my birthday, my husband enrolled us in one of those painting party/classes where you can paint a picture with an instructor who demonstrates how to paint it. It was a thoughtful gift, both in theme and in the idea that it was the gift of time together creating a shared memory.

When we arrived, everything we needed for the class was laid out for all the participants, from paints to canvas to brushes. While waiting for the class to begin, my phone rang. It was my four-year old niece, calling to wish me a happy birthday. During the course of our conversation she asked where we were as she could hear people talking and laughing. I described where we were. She was quite intrigued because she loves making art, all kinds of art, but especially painting. Naturally she asked what we were painting and I explained that we were painting a picture with branches and flowers. Her next question was if everyone was painting the same painting. I replied yes, that the instructor would show us how to paint the picture and everyone was expected to follow along. Her mind was reeling with this information and she began questioning:

“Why does everyone have to paint the same thing?”
“Why can’t people paint what they want to paint? “
“Can people choose their own paint colors? “
“Why do you have to paint the way the teacher says? “

For a little background, this is a child, who is so curious that at three years old and unable to read; taught herself how to find YouTube videos in order to learn how to pull teeth in dentistry videos, how to create Play Dough masterpieces, and how to fix her own hair. She has many interests and she has learned how to use technology to learn about them. She, and young learners like her, already know what some may not realize or may have forgotten and that is; learning doesn’t have to happen within the walls of a school building. Learning can occur anywhere, everywhere and at any time. She is a learner. She does all this, of course; with supervision of her parents and the blocking of unsavory websites.

It occurred to me while she was talking on the phone that her queries about the painting class translate to the following questions that all learners in a factory-model learning atmosphere are sure to ask themselves:

“Why does everyone have to learn the same thing? “
“Why can’t learners learn what they want to learn? “
“Can learners choose their own learning tools? “
“Why do learners have to learn the way a teacher says? “

Basically at the wise old age of four, the question my niece was asking me that currently many educators and schools are struggling to comprehend was,

“Why can’t learning be personalized?”

When a child can recognize the need for personalized learning, why can’t our education system? My niece is not viewing personalized learning as a buzzword or a fad. She is viewing personalized learning as a right that is due her as a learner. She was earnest in her questioning that inherently asked, why can’t there be voice and choice in learning? Why can’t learners “access, engage and express” their learning in ways that are meaningful to them? (Access, Engage, and Express TM; Personalize Learning, LLC).

As a preschooler, she is already absorbing how to play the “game of school” with rules and schedules that teach compliance. What I hope for her and for all learners, is that she will have teachers and a school culture that will encourage her as a learner and won’t suppress her questioning, wonder, discoveries, and uniqueness.

We are born learners. Somewhere along the way, the current education system can abduct the inner spirit of learners and their curiosity about the world. It’s time we stop viewing personalized learning as just a buzzword and in the ideas of a four-year-old, realize it’s the right of every learner to have voice and choice in their learning.


Pam Lowe has been in education for 22 years as a teacher, and curriculum director. She is the author of Missouri Then & Now: Activity Book, University of Missouri Press and has written for the Huffington Post and TechLearning magazine.

During her career she has assisted schools in leaving their school improvement status and in areas of assessment, inquiry-based /student-centered learning, educational technology, data analysis, and Depth of Knowledge. She served as a Missouri STARR Teacher and was named Teacher of the Year twice at O'Neal Elementary in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and Poplar Bluff R-1 District Teacher of the Year. She was designated a semi-finalist in Technology & Learning's Leader of the Year in 2005 and served on a National Advisory Board for Macmillan Mathematics.

Pam facilitates #plearnchat as @plearnchat, is a coach and moderator for the 5W's of Personalized Learning eCourses and is Marketing Associate for Personalize Learning. You can contact Pam on Twitter: @prlowe91 and email: prlowe@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Validating the Learner and Nurturing their Passion for Learning

Guest Post: Liberty Elem. Personalized Learning Team, Liberty Elem. School, RUSD, CA

Liberty Elementary’s vision is to become a landmark school that provides personalization while fostering every learner’s highest potential. Their mission was developed by all teachers:

“Liberty exists to nurture and facilitate innovators’ individual passion for learning. Through voice, choice, pace and path, learners will contribute to mankind’s digitally connected world.”
Screenshot 2016-01-16 15.20.27.png
In 2013, Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) was selected for a philanthropist grant for the implementation of Personalized Learning (PL). RUSD selected two elementary school to begin the pilot process of implementing PL in a small scale. This grant gave Liberty the opportunity for a small pilot team of teachers to attend conferences, workshops, site trainings and the 5W's web-based training on Personalized Learning.
The small pilot team is composed of three classroom teachers, one resource teacher, a literacy coach, and the principal. Our pilot group adopted and made a commitment to learn RUSD’s Five Elements of Personalized Learning, which have guided our learning and our learner centered instructional program. The five elements are:
  1. Personal Learner Profiles - knowing all about each learner
  2. Personal Learning Plans - details plans that are developed by learners, teachers and parents 
  3. Flexible Learning Environments - having options to learn in various ways 
  4. Competency-Based Progressions - showing mastery before moving on 
  5. Socially-Engaged Contributors - finding ways to interact and contribute to community both local and globally

Liberty Elementary is a neighborhood school located in a low-income community, with 93% of learners receiving free or reduced lunch. The community and school face several obstacles, including having Juvenile Hall next to their school. Liberty shares a fence with this institution. However, they belong to the No Excuses University (NEU) network and work under the No Excuses belief that “All students have the right to be educated in a way that will prepare them for a college education. Whether they attend or not should be their choice.”

Liberty created a Culture of Universal Achievement as we worked on believing in each and every child through NEU’s Belief Systems. In adopting the six Belief Systems, we banned the excuses we made. We no longer blame students, parents, our community or district when students do not learn. We no longer say “students will learn only if they spoke English or their parents were educated.” Under NEU’s Beliefs, we understand that we have full control of student learning and achievement. Our NEU made it easier to learn and implement Personalized Learning at Liberty because both have a strong focus on the child. Under our No Excuses model, we work hard to thrive amidst limitations and challenges that are very present in our community, and which learners face on a daily basis.

The relationships built between learners and teachers are important to all involved and builds culture and the common language around personalized learning so everyone is on board. It starts with conversations between learners and teachers to develop an understanding of who the learner is and to use that information to co-design learning goals based on our state standards. Learners advance, at their own pace, based on demonstrated mastery of the standards. They are socially engaged contributors that share their learning with others.

“Common Core is the What and Personalized Learning is the How”
Esther Garcia, Principal of Liberty Elementary

To meet the needs of our 21st century learners, flexible learning environments are provided, along with multiple instructional delivery approaches. From Maker Stations, Agricultural Center, and Green Screen room, to Coding and Chess Club, Liberty offers something to engage every kind of learner. To create these environments, we realized we need to know each learner and why it is important to validate them as a learner.

Personal Learner Profile

Our pilot team researched different questionnaires for the Learner Profile. Since we are also an AVID school, we first based it on learning styles used by this program. At ISTE 2014, we met Barbara and Kathleen and learned more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The district grant was for three pilot teachers and 100 learners. The pilot PL team, and other teachers interested in learning about PL, attended the 5W’s of Personalized Learning eCourse to learn more about the process. We adapted the Learner Profile and developed questions that started the conversations that allowed us to know each learner. Developing our Learner Profile and Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) started with a conversation.


The conversations became very emotional for teachers and learners because the cultural and religious beliefs students shared were very personal and opened our eyes to their lives at home. This was the first time they were able to express that they are children trying to learn in a culture with hidden rules they do not know or understand. This was also the beginning of building lasting relationships between the teacher and child as the following story shows:
One third grader shared that she missed her grandfather and how they spent time together gardening back in Mexico where she cannot go back and see him again. He taught her how to garden and they would tend to the garden together almost everyday. The teacher let the coordinator know and they invited her to join the garden club. She is now very excited to be a part of the garden club.

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) is one of the assessments we use to help us understand the big picture of the child from the academic side along with how each learner accesses information, engages with content, and expresses what they know.

This year (2015-2016), we modified the Learner Profile to include a word bank that describes each learner. At the end we added this prompt: “Something about what I want my teacher to know is…” This statement can go either way and could open doors to very private information. Understanding the child and their needs, socially and academically, is very important to us.

Personalized Learning Plan

The Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) has evolved a lot and is still evolving based on what kids can and cannot do, the profile and how they demonstrate mastery. We also see where they stand as readers, writers and mathematicians. As we create the whole child, if they cannot read, their plan includes goals for meeting reading standards. The Personalized Learning Plan includes the teacher and learner working together as co-authors as they work on the plan, monitor progress on what the learner can and cannot do, and then reflect and show if the learner mastered competencies. Then their profile gets updated to show changes or add new areas to their plan. They have a voice and choice on knowing who they are as a learner.

Screenshot 2016-01-16 19.26.23.png

Personalized Learning Cycle

The Personalized Learning Elements implemented by Riverside Unified School District are interconnected and cyclical scheduled without real time and dates because they are dictated by the learner. The Learner Profile is in the middle of the element’s cycle with a picture of the learner in cap and gown to remind us of the No Excuses belief: “All students have the right to be educated in a way that will prepare them for a college education. Whether they attend or not should be their choice.”


All five elements work in harmony. The two elements that are more evident, and were fun to implement are:
  • Flexible learning environments play a role where kids want to learn and what types of resources they want to use. There could be a screencasting of the teacher or kids, a physical space in the class, and a makerspace for more in-depth creativity and innovation.
  • Socially-engaged contributor is where learners and teachers are sharing learning through social media and learner-led conferences where learners own and drive the conversations around their learning. They also use Periscope for live streaming of learning happening when it happens. Teachers create YouTube videos and share everything.

Our Progress in Personalizing Learning

We have made good progress in the implementation of Passion Projects to meet the specific learning interests of students. Student interests were learned through the Learning Profiles. Some of the projects include: Coding, Chess, Origami, MakerSpaces, Green Screen and Take Apart. Our Passion Projects are ageless, gradeless. The MakerStation creates opportunities to build, tinker, and “make” projects that build upon interests in design and engineering. Participants document their findings and share their work with each others via tools such as Google Drive and YouTube channel.

Learners dove into computer science last year using Google CS First to learn basic coding skills that included game design, music and sound, and storytelling forms. The positive energy from students being invited to take a more hands-on approach to their own learning is already deeply felt on the school campus. Read more….

We are excited about our journey and plan to keep sharing the stories and what we learn.

“What excites me the most is being able to motivate learners and help them
believe in themselves. They will do great things when they are having fun as they learn.”
Norma Rodriguez

The Liberty Elementary Personalized Learning Team includes

Norma Rodriguez, Literacy Coach @NEULiberty
Tuesday Ramunni, Personalized Learning Program Manager @RamunniT
Kristina Forsythe, Personalized Learning Instructional Coach @TechyTwinMom
Kristin Karrow, 4th Grade Teacher @KarrowsWarriors
Mindie Driskel, 6th Grade Teacher @jmdriskel
Esther Garcia, Principal @neuesther

Monday, March 7, 2016

Design Thinking and Personalized Learning

Tonight in #plearnchat we had an inspiring conversation among educators interested in Design Thinking and Personalized Learning. We began trending as ideas and resources flowed throughout our chat based on our Big Question: 
How does the design thinking process encourage creativity and collaboration?

In tonight's chat we used the Q1, A1 format with these questions:

  1. How does design thinking help create meaningful solutions for active learning? 
  2. How can teachers help learners define a problem or challenge using the design thinking process? Where does empathy fit in?
  3. How can the design thinking process impact learning spaces and personalized learning to encourage deeper, active learning?
  4. How can learners generate ideas from identifying problems to creating solutions? Why is this important?
  5. How can building a prototype start conversations and test possibilities?
  6. How might teachers take on the mindset of learners to ensure they are designing learning that challenges thinking and encourages creativity?
  7. What examples and models of design thinking can you share?

Thanks to Christopher Good, @cgooddesign for being the co-host for 3/7/16 #plearnchat on design thinking. 

Chris is Creative Director at One Work Place in Santa Clara, CA, is a design thinking advocate and teaches workshops on the influence of design. Previously Chris was Principal and Vice President at KSA Interiors in Richmond, VA working with Fortune 500 corporations and state and federal government agencies.

In 2015 Chris was invited to join IDEO as a Build Partner for the Teachers Guild where he worked alongside teachers, school districts, and organizations including the Office of the First Lady. Most notably he worked with Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative to help students on their path to and through college.

One Workplace @owplearn www.oneworkplace.com
Teachers Guild @TeachersGuild teachersguild.org

We also would like to thank Amber Joseph, @oneworkplace, who was a co-host with Chris. What a wonderful job both of them did keeping the conversations going and sharing so many resources!

Our conversation covered various aspects of the design thinking process and many shared ideas and resources regarding how to help learners define problems. We engaged in deeper learning as we discussed encouraging learners to generate ideas and how teachers can manifest the mindset of learners. We especially love when our PLN walk away with new ideas and resources that they plan to implement tomorrow! 

Rik Rowe @RoweRikW said it best, “Tonight's #pLearnChat archive is one we will value!”

Some thought provoking posts by our chat participants were:

David Buck @dbuckedu 

"Deep learning can be a direct result of learners pursuing Qs they find meaningful, interesting, or even beautiful."

Adrianne G. Williams @Williaa14

"Teachers must feel comfy with possibility of failing. Test runs are key to building better #designthinking space.:

Alan Tenreiro @AlanTenreiro 

“Creative ideas are often met with a list of limitations - design thinking imagines a world without limitations.”

Erin English, Ed.D. @eenglished

"Prototyping is reality. Rarely do things work the first time. Prototyping teaches perseverance"

Chris Quinn @ChrisQuinn64 

“Teachers can take on the mindset of learners by learning from and with their students’s experiencing the learning journey together.”

Resources for a background on Design Thinking 

Introduction to the Design Thinking Process (dSchool Stanford)
Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit (IDEO)

Congratulations to Mark Levine for winning our book, Make Learning Personal

Mark Levine has taught middle school social studies heavily steeped in literacy for 16 years. He is a strong advocate for the workshop model in all classes and personalized learning experiences. His ideas stem from his 11+ years as a child-psychotherapist and desire to understand the way a developing child grows emotionally and cognitively.

In his years teaching, he has become an educational theorist and has taken his thinking and theories on the road to presentations and consultations in the midwest. He is writing various Professional Development books at this time and teaches at Lukancic Middle School in Romeoville, Illinois.

Twitter: @LevineWrites
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/levinewrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mark.levine.225
Email: Gentlewolf225@yahoo.com
Blog: http://levineliteracy.blogspot.com

Save the Date

Next #plearnchat is in 2 weeks Monday, March 7, 2016
at 7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT

Topic is "The Educator with a Maker Mindset"
with co-host Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein

We would love to continue the Design Thinking conversations with you in our comments. We archived the entire chat below using #storify for you.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Continuum of Engagement: From Compliant to Flow

The Continuum of Engagement provides the characteristics of a learner as they move from being passive about learning to being in the flow. How do we know learners are engaged? Step up the ladder to see how a learner moves from compliant to flow so you can picture what it looks and sounds like in a classroom when learners start engaging in the learning process. If you walk in a classroom, you might be able to see and hear engagement or the lack of it.

Continuum of Engagement TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at bit.ly/continuumengagement.* Graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth


In a Compliant level, the teacher is probably following the curriculum and doing what they know or learned in their teacher education program. If a teacher is directing the learning, it might be to introduce a topic. Some activities are determined by the lesson. The teacher may have prepared the lesson, created or used materials to put on the walls, and set up the seating chart. Learners are usually follow directions from the teacher and are not talking about their learning.


When learners are in the Commit level, you will see learners in pairs, groups, or working individually. The teacher may still be laying the groundwork for learning and determining prior knowledge at this level, but learners are more involved in what they learn. There will be more examples from learners on the walls. You may see the teacher walking around the room or sitting with one learner or with a group. This is the level where the teacher is building the relationship with the learner. The learner starts taking responsibility for some of the tasks or skills they need to learn.


When learners are in the Connect level, there is more noise in the classroom. You will see learners moving around the room, some standing and others maybe even sitting on the floor or hall. The teacher may be doing the same as what they did in the Commit level but now the room is noisier. The learners are doing more of the talking than the teacher. This is where learners enjoy learning from each other and even teaching their peers. Learners are becoming more inquisitive by generating questions and investigating solutions to challenges, issues, and problems.


When learners are in the Flow, this is called “messy learning” and may seem chaotic to some people. There is no way to capture what it might look like. You may have a few learners in the hall, one on a phone contacting a mentor, two sitting together animated, a small group brainstorming in the corner, and someone presenting their evidence to others for feedback. This is when learners are pursing their interests, are curious and seeking what they are passionate about. You can hear it in their voices and actions. They know how to set goals and monitor their progress. They want to share what they learn. They are motivated to learn and take greater responsibility for their own learning. 

Deeper into Engagement and Flow...

Engagement is the affective side of learning and has been found to be a robust predictor of learner performance and behavior in the classroom. (Martin-Kniep, 2012) Engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught. When learners have a choice in what they are learning especially if it is something they are passionate about or interested in, they jump in and sometimes get lost in the task or project. This is called "flow" and you can see and hear the engagement.
[Source: Adapted from Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow:
The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row]

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is best known as the architect of the theory of flow. Flow is when a person is fully immersed in what they are doing and there is a balance between the challenge of the task and the skill of the learner. Flow cannot occur if the task is too easy or too difficult. Csíkszentmihályi published the graph below that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results. (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990)

There is so much more to share. In fact, we will be including this and more examples in our new book, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper coming out in Fall 2016.

Some questions for you to respond below: 

Have you experienced flow?
Where are you in the Continuum of Engagement?What about your learners in your classroom? 



Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York. Harper & Row.

Martin-Kniep, G. (2012) 27. Neuroscience of engagement and SCARF: why they matter to school. https://lciltd.org/WebsitePublications/HandbookNeuroleadership_EngagementArticleGMK.pdf


Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth (http://sylviaduckworth.com) from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Engagement 3/6/2016.

*This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey of Personalized Learning, LLC (c) March 6, 2106. For permission to adapt, distribute copies, or to use in a publication, contact Personalize Learning, LLC at personalizelearn@gmail.com.

Links to other Continuums
Continuum of Choice
Continuum of Voice

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Project-based Learning gives Kindergarteners Agency

Guest Post by Paula Ford, Kindergarten teacher, 

Manuel De Vargas Elementary School in San Jose, California

Manuel De Vargas Elementary @DeVargas, is a Title I school in the Cupertino Union School District in California. We have over 29 languages spoken at our school. Our school is in year 2 of transitioning to a STEM Project Based Learning School. I wanted to share with you how my kindergarteners took charge of their learning around one of our projects.

Thinking and discussing…

Originally my kindergarteners decided they wanted to collect books to send to kids in Africa. We have a global partnership with the Cheery Education Center in Kenya. Their plan was to decorate boxes, put them by classrooms and have the whole school bring in donations. I asked them, “how will you let all the other learners know about your project?” After some thought and discussions, they concluded that I needed to contact each teacher. My response was that this would then be my project, when actually this needs to be their project. Hmmmm. More thinking and discussing. Then they remembered we have video announcements done by our school video production crew. So, the kids decided we could make a video explaining our Project-Based Learning (PBL) activity to ask for help.

More research…

We found out it costs over $65.00 to ship a medium sized box to the Cheery Education Center in Africa. I brought the box into class and then we saw that it only held 8 books. So, we went back to our “what do we know” information and realized that it costs $50 for 2 children to attend school with meals for a month in Africa. That seemed like a more realistic project compared to sending 8 books for $65.00. So, we went back to the drawing board and the kids decided to collect coins. I explained the bank idea and that is how the kids came up with the collection jars called “Change for Change.”

They designed the signs on all the jars, loaded up my wagon, and made the deliveries throughout the school. They chose the groups to work on speeches for their video presentations. Each group had a different subtopic on our Africa PBL. Then we worked with our big 4th grade buddies to practice fluency, voice projection, eye contact, etc. Finally, we filmed it in front of the Chroma Key Green Screen. The big buddies were there watching the filming, and it was so cute how invested they were in my kids performance.

Pop-up store...

Some of the kinder kids made African inspired crafts to sell at a “pop-up store” on campus to donate the money to the African school. They figured out pricing, and ran the store during recess, lunch and after school. Another group of kinders wanted to make a web-page of sorts (like Go Fund Me). We used the large Apple TV so that they could be active participants in the process of designing the web page (drag and drop, etc). They put up some artwork and writings of what they have learned. In PE, the kids learned African dances. I have been teaching them all African rhythms with the rhythm sticks (great for learning syllables). In science, they learned about what people need to survive (focusing on our PBL in Africa). Our collection jars, “Change for Change,” are now in every classroom. My kids have made four videos for our video announcements about Africa.

AfricanMasks 3 girls.JPG
      African Masks

It was a great PBL...

We just finished our Africa PBL. Before they got the money, they had to decide as a group how they were going to count the money (i.e. stacks of 10 pennies in groups of 10 stacks, or stacks of 4 quarters, etc.). After we collected the jars and sorted the money, we invited our 4th grade buddies to help us count.

    Fourth grade buddies collecting change

The grand total was $470! We went back to our PBL board and talked about what that amount of money can provide. We were able to send over 18 kids to school for an entire month including meals with left-overs to pay for other incidental items.

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       African Dancing

Next PBL...

Our next PBL will be on endangered animals. The deliverable will be a 6 second Vine type video where a collaborative group will talk about why their animal is endangered and advocate for its protection. They can choose to do a song, skit, poster, speech, or whatever they want to demonstrate their understanding and to convey their message.



My name is Paula Ford. I graduated from University of California at Davis with my Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic (BCLAD) multiple subject teaching credential, and have been teaching for over twenty years. I began my career in bilingual education, and then moved to teaching second language learners. I have taught kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and have been a resource teacher for grades transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. The majority of my career has been teaching low-socioeconomic English language learners. 

Currently, I am teaching kindergarten at Manuel De Vargas Elementary School, and I absolutely love it.