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Superintendent's Message

Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea with a female student

Superintendent’s Message for February 2018

As we move along the path of “making learning personal” here in Greenwich Public Schools, this month serves as a great time to share both a well recognized definition of Personalized Learning as well as the 5 key shifts that occur in a Personalized Learning System Design.  Jim Rickabaugh is well-known for his work on educational transformation, and his thoughts inform this article and our collective efforts centered on: Learner Profiles, Customized Learning Paths, and Proficiency-Based Progress.

Personalized Learning Defined:

An approach to learning and instruction that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs, and interests.  Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress, and determining how learning will be demonstrated.  At any given time, learning objectives, content, methods and pacing are likely to vary from learner to learner as they pursue proficiency aligned to established standards. A fully personalized environment moves beyond both differentiation and individualization.

Shifts the Learning Environment in 5 Ways

From: Instruction focused on curriculum, pacing and presentation shifts — TO: Instruction focused on Content, Competencies, and Actual Learning from the Student Perspective.
It fosters independence - Our ultimate goal is for students to no longer have to depend on us, but to support them as they accrue skills and make choices in pursuit of meeting established standards.

From: Learning on demand — TO: Instruction on Demand
It supports a variety of learning approaches - Places learning at the center, encourages collaboration between students and teachers in designing a learning path and rejects “one-size-fits-all” approaches.

From: Learning driven by general assumptions and vague reasons — TO: Learning Driven by Learning for Purpose
Learning, not time, is positioned as the constant.  Students see value and purpose in their learning.  Learning success is designed and built into the learning path.

From: Focusing on content accumulation — TO: Building Learning Capacity
It builds learners’ skills and capacity with the support of important content - Goes beyond accumulation of academic content to support skill development and capacity building necessary for continued learning.

From: Ensuring access — TO: Ensuring Success
It shifts the role of learners and educators - Students feel a vested interest in learning and develop skills to make decisions about and engage independently in their learning long after leaving the classroom.

We recognize that system innovation and, ultimately, transformation is not complete overnight, but takes into account 26 areas of re-design and reimagining our learning environment.  We recognize it will take time to paint a picture of a transformed system that is highly attuned to individual learner strengths, needs, readiness, and interests and consider that this new view may challenge our current assumptions about schools and schooling.  Support for reimagining our schools will take: building awareness, constructing new mental models of “school”, creating a compelling shared vision, identifying entry points (such as math pilot), and identifying key leading indicators of successful implementation before we move toward scale.  If we keep the focus on student learning, we can accelerate progress that will institutionalize practices and structures to ensure each learner’s success. Realization of the Vision of the Graduate through academic, interpersonal and personal capacities facilitated through a personalized learning lens will be a true measure of system success in Greenwich Public Schools.

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