(Springfield, Ky.) – Washington County Elementary School principal Dr. Jennifer Miller and North Washington Elementary School Principal Amanda M. Mattingly recently attended training though the Kentucky Innovation Lab network at the Institute for Personalized Learning in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The two principals visited four different elementary and middle schools that each highlighted student choice and individualized learning. During the visits, Miller and Mattingly were able to see purposeful learning, learner efficacy and ownership for learning as well as intentional planning from the staff for flexible pacing, learner voice and standards based grading live in action.

“Students had a tremendous level of ownership in their learning and knew exactly what skills they were working on and why,” says Mattingly. “It was evident that the teachers had a strong understanding of where each individual student was performing, based on ongoing formative assessment, and then developed and implemented instruction accordingly. It was definitely not a “one size fits all” approach. Because of this, we saw high levels of ownership and engagement from both teachers and students.”

“My greatest take away from the visit was centered around student choice,” said Miller. “Students were expected to work at a high level and the work they completed was assessed on a rigorous grading rubric. However, students were given choices for work completion based on their individual learning style. These choices gave students responsibility – teachers scored them based on a proficiency scale, but students had to show self-discipline to monitor their decisions and work habits. It was evident that the teachers were all on board with this approach and had received training at all grade levels because the process was similar in each school and each classroom we visited. In order to provide individualized students instruction, we need to remember – take one step at a time, but continue to move forward each year.”

Adds Mattingly, “Many of our teachers are working very hard to move toward individualized instruction for our students, so it was wonderful to visit schools and classrooms where individualized learning has been their focus for the past five to seven years. It is my hope that we will be able to share some of the strategies, systems and structures these classrooms had in place with our teachers through professional learning and instructional planning this summer. [It] will be very exciting and meaningful work for us.”

Dr. J. Robin Cochran, superintendent of Washington County Schools, says that she is excited that the district continues to work with the Kentucky Innovation Lab. “Opportunities like this are important for principal leadership growth in learning and understanding how personalized learning opportunities can become a reality in classrooms,” she said. “Teachers in Washington County have been very responsive to learning more about project based learning and individualization. Maker spaces, creative exploratory opportunities and the grants we are currently seeking are foundational in the work that we are committed to doing. Dr. Miller and Mrs. Mattingly are true role models of collaborative leadership and I have no doubt that what they saw in Wisconsin will spark ideas for future opportunities in their respective buildings.”