Sunday, April 24, 2016

Personalized Learning under ESSA? Here’s one idea.

Guest Post by Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is just over four months old, and it’s already dominating national, state, and local conversations about education reform. There is certainly a lot to get excited about in the new federal education law, including a long list of opportunities to make personalized learning a reality for every student in the country.

But these opportunities will only translate into results for students if stakeholders take advantage of them to design new systems of teaching and learning with high expectations and an aligned network of high quality learning experiences to ensure every student is challenged and every student succeeds.

In March, KnowledgeWorks released two resources to help states and districts think more deeply about ESSA through a personalized learning lens. First, we released a side-by-side to compare No Child Left Behind to the new opportunities for personalized learning in ESSA. Then, we created a guide with more detailed recommendations and guiding questions to support states as they begin to engage in design conversations about their state’s vision for teaching and learning under ESSA.

While we expect there will be many different and creative visions that emerge from states over the next year, here’s one possible scenario for how a state can advance personalized learning under ESSA.

A Sample State Vision for Personalized Learning under ESSA


The state’s accountability system incorporates academic and social and emotional learning measures that incentivize deeper levels of learning. Schools must show evidence that students are mastering deeper levels of academic competencies at a rate of growth to ensure proficiency in all core subjects by graduation.

School Improvement

Comprehensive and readily-available data from the state’s accountability system enables stakeholders to design proactive supports and interventions for all schools. In the few cases when end-of-year interventions are necessary, an extensive diagnostic review helps stakeholders develop a plan to ensure all students progress at a sufficient rate of growth to get back on track in time for graduation. While districts have the flexibility to design their own strategies for school reform, state resources and support align to a set of high-quality principles for advancing personalized learning.


A balanced system of formative, interim and summative assessments integrates multiple points of learning evidence and provides an accurate picture of each student’s learning trajectory. Summative assessments are administered in smaller, more frequent assessments throughout the year and include performance tasks to measure mastery of complex demonstrations of knowledge. All assessments are computer adaptive to help stakeholders better identify student learning needs and design a plan for improvement.

Educator Workforce

The state has developed a comprehensive set of professional competencies that reflect the skills and responsibilities teachers and leaders need to excel in personalized learning environments. The state’s pre-service, certification, professional development, and evaluation programs are all aligned to these competencies so teachers and leaders have the personalized support to embrace new roles and deepen mastery of professional competencies.

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs)

The state has aligned federal and state resources for ELOs to a statewide vision for personalized learning. Students have access to a state-monitored digital registry of credit-bearing ELOs, both inside and outside the classroom, that are aligned to state standards and competencies. Students and educators work together to design customized pathways to mastery that combine traditional instruction with ELOs.


We hope the national dialogue around ESSA continues to highlight the tremendous potential in ESSA to build an aligned personalized learning system. The success of this reauthorization depends on states’ ability to knit together these opportunities in a compelling and high quality way that increases rigor, student engagement, and college and career readiness so all students succeed.


Lillian Pace is the Senior Director of National Policy for KnowledgeWorks. Prior to joining the foundation, Lillian served as an Education Policy Advisor for the House Education and Labor Committee, where she worked on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. She holds a B.A. in public policy and journalism from Washington and Lee University and an M.P.P. from George Washington University. 

Follow her on Twitter: @LillianPace and LinkedIn.
To keep on top of education policy, check out Lillian's Blog.

BlogTalk Radio Podcast with Lillian Pace and Matt Williams from KnowledgeWorks on Personalized Learning under ESSA

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Continuum of Engagement: Conversations that Engaged Twitter

We recently wrote a blog post about engagement, Continuum of Engagement: from Compliant to Flow, where we explained that “engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught.”

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 Graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth

The blog post was centered around our Continuum of Engagement graphic we created to demonstrate the characteristics of learners as they move from being passive about learning to being in the flow. The continuum has sparked discussions on social media that we felt would be an insightful conversation in tonight’s #plearnchat. Here are some of the tweets and thoughts shared on this question:  “Learner Engagement: Is it authentic or is it compliant?”

Mark Levine ‎@LevineWrites

Sometimes administration looks at engagement as compliance, even when learning doesn't exist. Engagement is authentic learning!

Staci Mckee ‎@my4ccoa

I honestly think it's a bit of both. I feel learners are engaged when they are the ones who extend the activity and discussions.

Katrina Cade ‎@katrina_cade

Agreed. Just because students are sitting still and staring at the teacher doesn't mean they are engaged.

Mark Levine ‎@LevineWrites

Engagement is when learners are so entangled in the lesson that they can't think of anything else. They say, it is over already?

Nancy White ‎@NancyW

And they (learners) are asking questions that go beyond clarifying what they need to do for the assignment.

When learners have a choice and they are passionate about what they are learning they can get lost in a task or subject. This is called "flow" and you can see and hear the engagement. The sound of engagement sounds much like the energy you hear in a coffee shop. It’s palpable and can be detected from a classroom doorway. Listen and observe your learners; embrace their engagement and flow.

Congratulations to Lynn Spady for winning our book, Make Learning Personal.

Lynn Spady, @lynnspady, an enrichment specialist at Westside Community Schools in Omaha, Nebraska; is in her 19th year of teaching and feels truly blessed to be in such an awesome and rewarding profession!

Lynn shared, "While I have truly enjoyed each year of my career, I'd have to say the past 4 years as an enrichment specialist have been the most rewarding. I help students find and explore their passions and interests on a daily basis!" 

Save the Date

Our next #plearnchat is Monday, May 2nd at 4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST and 7pm EST. 

We archived the entire #plearnchat about engagement below for your convenience and as a resource. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Continuum of Ownership: Developing Autonomy

Chris Watkins, an independent consultant and leading authority on meta-learning in the UK and former reader at The Institute of Education, London Centre for Leadership in Learning, has been a researcher on learning over the last two decades. In his research article, "Learners in the Driving Seat”, he developed a metaphor to better understand the concept of ’driving’ our learning. When driving we have an idea for a destination – perhaps a bit of a map of the territory; we have hands on the wheel, steering – making decisions as the journey unfolds; and all this is crucially related to the core process of noticing how it’s going and how that relates to where we want to be. Watkins makes these four points of what happens when learners drive the learning. When learners drive their learning,
  • it leads to greater engagement and intrinsic motivation for them to want to learn, 
  • learners setting a higher challenge for themselves, 
  • learners evaluating their own work, and 
  • better problem-solving skills.
Continuum of Ownership TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at* Graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth

Barbara McCombs, PhD, from the University of Denver, states in her research Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students that motivation is related to whether or not learners have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices. Having choices allows children to feel that they have control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps them develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.


Compliance means that learners do not own their learning or may not believe they are the ones that have to do the work to learn. This is what most of us as learners experienced because “school” was designed for “students” to follow instructions. Since the late 1800’s, school has been designed so that the teacher is responsible and accountable for learning. When you walk in a class where the teacher owns and drives the learning, they usually tend to be the hardest-working person in the classroom. You will see walls covered with materials the teacher purchased or created. They are doing most of the talking and learners contribute by doing what is asked of them.


In the Understanding phase, learners share how they learn best with the teacher. In the next chapter, we’ll introduce a new tool, the Personal Learning Plan (PLP), which will help learners think through and articulate how they learn best. Being able to write how they learn, their interests, talents and aspirations, gives the learner a voice. These conversations with the teacher help validate them as a learner that begins to shift responsibility for learning from the teacher to the learner. In this phase, learners also consult with the teacher to determine their learning goals, for which we’ve provided the PLP. The learner shares evidence of their learning as they learn with the teacher and their peers.


Investment is when learners build confidence in developing the skills they need to work independently and with others. They see the value of goal setting. They refer to the PLP with guidance from the teacher to determine action steps they will need to progress in their learning. They are now more invested in their learning and know how to identify and choose the best evidence of their learning that demonstrates mastery. Walking in a room where learners are invested in their learning looks different. Learners are focused on completing tasks, talking about their learning, and excited about sharing the process and evidence of what they are learning.


Autonomy is when learners have the confidence and skills to work independently and with others. In using innovative and creative strategies, learners extend their goals to now pursue their interests and passions and include those in their learning goals. They are determined to self-monitor progress as they adjust their PLP as they learn and meet their goals. Learners identify and create passion projects that they showcase and exhibit the process and products to peers, family, and possibly a global audience.

When learners feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning. If teachers and learners are learners first, then responsibility comes with being a learner. Learners of all ages become responsible for their learning when they own and drive their learning so they can be more independent and eventually self-directed learners.


Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth ( from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Ownership 4/17/2016.

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


Other Continuums moving to Agency
Continuum of Choice
Continuum of Voice
Continuum of Engagement

Monday, April 4, 2016

Voice, Choice and Authentic Learning

#plearnchat had the ingredients to inspire educators from around the world to share their thoughts about passion-based learning, how to encourage learner choice, and how to give learners an authentic audience. So much so, that we were still trending as we wrote this post.

Thanks to David Truss @datruss for being the co-host for the April 4th, 2016 #plearnchat on Voice, Choice and Authentic Learning.

David is an educator (Vice Principal) with Learning Innovations Network Coquitlam (LINC) for School District #43 ~ Coquitlam, BC, Canada. His primary responsibilities are to Coquitlam Open Learning and the new blended learning Inquiry Hub Secondary School

You can find more about David on his blog,, his podcasts, and his website,

A few resources from David:

The Adaptable Mind

The #plearnchat was around one big question:

What happens when learners move from “doing school” to “authentic learning?”

We asked six questions of our participants and one that we’d like for you to consider is: 

How do you know when learners are learning?

This is an important question for all educators to ask themselves. It’s a question that we must know the answer to before we make assignments and engage learners in their learning. It leads to another important question, like; what should be done if we discover learners aren’t learning? 

Here’s what some of our PLN had to say about how they know when learners are learning:

Angelo Truglio @a_truglio

"When students are asking the questions, seeking next steps. When they've made it THEIR mission, not your assignment."

Tom Whitford @twhitford

"When students begin asking more questions about their learning. When students ask for additional tools to find answers." 

Lisa Guardino @LisaGuardino

"Students are learning when they begin to reflect on their learning, they ask deep questions, and show passion about their work." 

Jen Hegna @jenhegna

"They respond correctly to questions, they create products that represent their learning, They discuss logically with others."

            Congratulations to Kory Graham @korytellers for winning our book,
            Make Learning Personal

            Kory, who after 20+ years of classroom teaching in all levels K-6, is now in her inaugural year of being the Innovations Specialist at Byron Elementary in Byron Public Schools in SE Minnesota. Making this exciting jump allows her to pursue her passion.

            She is extremely passionate about improving teaching and learning through technology. Kory thinks anything can be fixed with a good attitude, a cape, and some Booyah!

            Kory's blog is and website she uses in her classroom is  - she also uses the hashtag #korytellers

            Save the Date

            Next #plearnchat is in 2 weeks Monday, April 18th, 2016

            at 7pm ET, 6pm CT, 5pm MT, 4pm PT

            Topic is "Continuum of Engagement"

            with the PL Team

            We would love to continue the Voice, Choice and Authentic Learning conversations with you in our comments. We archived the entire chat below using #storify for you.