Tag Archives: Phases of Implementing CL

What Can Scouting Teach Us About Proficiency-Based Learning

Scouting does pretty good work with curriculum.

I think our Customized Learning work (both for kids and the professional learning for educators) shares many characteristics with theirs: learning is customized; individuals progress at their own pace; they progress by demonstrating proficiency; learners have lots of voice and choice simultaneously with clear guidelines and expectations; learning is chunked into modules, instead of large all-encompassing courses; proficiency requires a mix of knowing and doing and applying/creating; responsibility for the teaching & learning is distributed; etc.

Auburn has a Distributed PD System Design project going on right now. They (we) just posted two activities that might help others think about curriculum organization and managing learning in a proficiency-based system:

 

The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning

One lesson our district has learned from working with other districts further along with implementing Customized Learning is “not all at once!” There are many components to the school reform effort, and following a certain sequence seems to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes. Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, successful implementation of Customized Learning moves through these five phases:

  • Awareness Phase
  • Classroom Culture Phase
  • Instructional Design Phase
  • Instructional Implementation Phase
  • School Structures Phase

Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement a system of Customized Learning, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps. Below are the posts that will help you better understand and leverage the Phases:

How the Phases Help Support Implementation and Teachers

The Phases of Implementation are actually a tool to leverage in support of teachers and the school's or district's implementation of Customized Learning. The components of Customized Learning are certainly not new to schools, but successfully implementing CL depends on raising the level of level of implementation and the consistency of implementation across the school and school year so they don't simply occur in certain classrooms or during certain units. But learning to implement all those moving parts, in a sequence that actually works, can seem daunting! The Phases take a complex initiative (Customized Learning) and break it into manageable chunks, supporting implementation (and teachers!) in several ways.

The Phases Help Leaders Articulate Where the Staff and School are in Their Implementation
The notion of phases is helpful to leadership because they can classify their educators by the phase each is in. Not only can teachers be identified as being in a specific phase, but so can teams (grade levels, interdisciplinary teams, departments, etc.), schools, and districts based on the phase of the majority of their teachers. This helps with articulating to the district, parents, and community where you are on your journey toward implementing Customized Learning, and reminds everyone that this work will not be completed over night (our district has a 5-year plan for implementation!), and helps everyone manage expectations about what should be happening in our schools at this point in the implementation.

Keep in mind that teachers within a school will be at different phases. Districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning have had success with having early adopters pilot a phase ahead of the rest of the staff, and even when the majority of staff in a school are ready to move to the next phase, there will be new staff needing initial training, or staff who are progressing at a different pace than their colleagues.

The Phases Help Teachers Focus Their Professional Learning and Implementation
The phases help educators know the “curriculum” of implementing Customized Learning, where they are in the scope and sequence of that curriculum, and what goals and next steps they might need for progressing to the next level. The goal of any phase is to develop proficiency in the skills related to that phase. This will lead to a strategic progression of more and more skill at creating a personalized learning environment for students, where we expect students to have an improved sense of having their learning needs met, resulting in increased competence, engagement, and academic success.

It is always okay for teachers to dabble, try out, and explore features of a phase or two ahead of where they are, but only within the context of informal learning (“dabbling”). Educators' primary responsibility is getting good at the skills of their current phase.

“Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust” is a crucial component of implementation at each phase, insuring that reflection, continuous improvement, collaborative problem-solving, supporting colleagues, and sharing ideas are hallmarks of the teachers' work.

The Phases Help Leaders Plan for Professional Development
Leadership can more easily plan for training, support, coaching, and professional development because of the Phases : (a) leaders can articulate where their staff are in their professional learning progression; (b) the kinds of resources, training, and coaching needed differs by phase; and (c) how much of that support is needed depends on how many staff are in each phase. Similar to how students will move through the curriculum via Customized Learning, teachers demonstrate mastery of components in one phase before moving on to the next phase.

The first three phases each begin with educators participating in specific training designed to kick off that phase by orienting them to the key components and the work that awaits them (I have come to think of them as “same page” trainings since they are intended to get everyone on the same page.). Other trainings (offered as teachers need them, see below) help teaching staff become more familiar with the curriculum organization, the complex reasoning and life-long habits of mind curriculum strands, various instructional strategies, learning progress management, student motivation, etc.

In fact, from the Classroom Culture phase on, we do not automatically provide teachers the “next” trainings and professional development until they have demostrated some proficiency with the skills, tools, and concepts of the phase they are currenty in. They must get good at the current phase before moving on.

The Phases Help Leaders Focus Positive Pressure and Support
Level of implementation matters, and leaders increase level of implementation through Positive Pressure and Support. Positive Pressure and Support has three pieces: Expectations, Supervision, and Support. We have just discussed support, but the Phases help focus Positive Pressure and Support, as well, by making clear the expectations (getting good a skills in the phase you're teachers are in), and by clarifying what to look for in classrooms when supervising and supporting (those same skills of the current phase).

Even if the Phases help provide clarity, leaders still need training and support themselves so they know the phases and what each phase's skills look like. For example, are teachers in the Classroom Culture Phase actually working within their phase toward getting feedback from students, or are they jumping ahead? Have teachers simply posted some of the tools (such as a Parking Lot) or are they actually providing students with opportunities and guidance on providing feedback using a Parking Lot. Is the absence of a Parking Lot a sign that a teacher isn't focused on Student Voice and Choice, or is the teacher simply using other strategies?

 

This approach to scaling the reform is successful specifically because, at any given moment, the work is personalized to the immediate needs of the teacher, team, school, or district. Team level, school level, district level, and consortium level. Shared leadership teams (a) determine where their educators and communities are in the process of implementing customized learning (using the phases as a guide), (b) design individualized implementation plans and interventions for their group, and (c) provide positive pressure and support for moving to the next level.

 

Form Follows Function: The Phases Inform Structural Change

One of the big mistakes schools and districts new to Customized Learning make too often is to make structural changes to things like grading, grade levels, courses, and student grouping too early in the change process.

I think this happens for a couple reasons.

One may be that much of the work in the early phases is to address a shared vision and burning platform, to examine our beliefs about learning, to explore what Customized Learning looks like in action, to build the right kind of culture in your classroom, and to make the curriculum more transparent and navigable for students and teachers. This is heady work that often doesn’t seem like action. Changing grading or the schedule is tangible and is action.

Another reason I think it happens is that it doesn’t take long doing even the early stages of this work to realize that how we currently grade, and schedule, and group students, and organize curriculum into courses probably will need to be changed to do Customized Learning well.

There is a major problem with these reasons (even if it is perfectly understandable why educators would feel them): change those structures to what?

It is understandable to want more tangible action. And it is obvious quickly that the structures will need to change. But until a critical mass of the staff have built a classroom culture of voice and choice, made the curriculum transparent and navigable, and have developed some proficiency at a balanced instructional model that provides for both learning higher-order thinking and lower-level thinking, it will not be clear what kind of grading will work for you, or scheduling, or organizing “courses” or “seminars,” etc.

Then there are the political or strategic issues around the public being ready for those kinds of changes (heaven forbid school look different than when they were students!). Making structural changes too soon has led to public backlash (this, for example). When the school is further along with implementation, and there have been strong efforts to build understanding and support among parents, the public understands why those changes are being made and sees a need for them.

Recently, I discussed the phases of implementation. You might have noticed how each of the early phases said “In the Current System.” This is a reminder that those big structural changes come later. The phases should follow the Biology principal of “form follows function.” The initial phases are implemented within the current school system, but the changes in curriculum organization, classroom culture, and instruction inform us about how school structures (student grouping, grades, courses, schedules, etc.) need to change. Even early implementation makes clear the inadequacy of the current approach of these components for Customized Learning, leading to educators often wanting to jump to making these structural changed early in the process.

But, in truth, we don’t know what to change them to until we’ve had a chance to get good at the components of earlier phases in the process.

They are important changes. And they will come. But wait until the right time.

Overview of The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning

Implementing Customized Learning can certainly seem like a daunting task! I have written previously about the need to find a way to think of approaching implementation in a manageable way.

In reviewing the work of other schools and organizations further along in the process of implementing Customized Learning than we are, there are lessons for school leaders about effective and less effective approaches to implementation. By looking at the contrasts between the implementation efforts of an initiative that works and those that do not, educators can learn something about what the successful schools have done and what the less successful schools might not have done.

One of the major lessons for leaders has been “not all at once!”

There are many components to the school reform effort, and following a certain sequence seems to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes. Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, successful implementation of Customized Learning moves through these five phases:

  • Awareness Phase
  • Classroom Culture Phase
  • Instructional Design Phase
  • Instructional Implementation Phase
  • School Structures Phase

Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement a system of Customized Learning, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps. Below is an overview (the “deliverables,” if you will) for each phase:

Awareness Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goals for this Phase: Examine our collective beliefs about learning and school; Start to build a mental picture of Customized Learning
  • Own the Learning Training (Customized Learning Awareness)
  • Shared Vision, Burning Platform, Beliefs of Learning Documents Established
  • Able to Articulate Beliefs of Learning, Vision, Mission
  • Explore How Beliefs Match Practice
  • Familiarity with Curriculum Organization
  • Start to Make Learning Transparent to Students
  • Able to Articulate Basic Information about Customized Learning and a Student Centered Environment

 

Classroom Culture Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goals for this Phase: More consistently create a learner-centered classroom culture, including procedural efficiencies; Make the curriculum more transparent and navigable to students
  • Classroom Design & Delivery Training
  • Create a Learner Centered Culture that Honors Student Voice and Choice
  • Create Procedural Efficiency in a Learner Centered Classroom (e.g. Rules, Student Input, Standard Operating Procedures)
  • Tracks Student Progress on Specific Learning Goals/Targets vs Activities/Assignments
  • Learning is Transparent so Students Can Navigate Their Own Learning (e.g. Student Goal Setting, Use of Curriculum Organization)
  • Initial Use of Mission, Vision, etc., as Decision-Making Screen
  • Recognize It Is Not About the Tools, But Rather About How the Tools Are Used (Parking Lot, SOPs, PDCAs, Code of Cooperation, Affinity Charts, etc.)

 

Instructional Design Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Designing lessons and units for Customized Learning that reflect instruction for both lower-level and higher-level thinking
  • Instructional Design & Delivery Training
  • Balanced Instructional Model
  • Unpacking Learning Targets with Students
  • Instruction Organized Around Measurement Topics (Curriculum Model)
  • Student Self Pacing & Acceleration
  • Instruction for Lower Taxonomy Levels (e.g. identifies online resources for Level 2 Goals)
  • Instruction for Upper Taxonomy Levels (e.g. Seminars, Projects, etc.)
  • Consistent Use of Mission, Vision, etc., as Decision-Making Screen
  • Separates Academic Feedback from Non-Academic Feedback

 

Instructional Implementation Phase (In an Evolving System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Become skilled at consistently implementing the practices (motivation, interventions, grading and assessment, etc.) to carry out the lessons and units.
  • Has and Uses an Explicit Model/Language of Instruction (e.g. The Art & Science of Teaching)
  • Uses a System of Recording and Reporting Student Progress
  • Use of Individualized Learning Plans
  • Applies Assessment for Learning (Formative Feedback)
  • Uses Formative Approach to Calculate Progress and Rubrics, Instead of Points and Percentages
  • Applies Effective Practices in Student Motivation & Engagement
  • Demonstrating Proficiency on Learning Targets Through Different Approaches (Multiple Pathways)

 

Structure Phase (The New System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Design and implement the schools systems and structures to support pedagogical practices developed and implemented over the previous phases.
  • Grading and Reporting System
  • “Rank & Advancement” (Grade Levels)
  • Scheduling Students
  • Grouping and Regrouping of Students
  • Course Organization (Seminars, “Merit Badges,” etc.)
  • Understands and Embraces Invention Reasoning

 

We are quick to point out that staff are alway free to “dabble” a phase or two ahead of where they are now. In fact, their explorations often help us figure out how to better implement the coming phases. Using the term “dabble” also helps make clear that, although their explorations are welcome, their task is to get good at the deliverables for the phase they are currently in.

Here is a phases chart you can share with your staff.