May 8, 2021

Take Learning Personal - Designing the Personalized Learning Plan

Take Learning Personal - Designing the Personalized Learning Plan

Imagine paving your own path for learning and professional development, the freedom to determine your own learning objectives, resources, and work products. This month, Terri's focus is on the personalized learning plan.

Whether a student in a traditional school setting, a homeschool student, a parent honing your parenting skills, a hobbyist perfecting your talent, or a professional seeking more from your work, creating a learning plan that works for you is essential to meeting your goals.

Included with this episode is a template to guide you in designing a Personalized Learning Plan!

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Personalized Learning Plan Template


If humans are naturally drawn to learning, why doesn't everyone enjoy school? If everyone has unique gifts and talents, why do some people feel dumb, depressed and insignificant? If you want something different, you need to do something different. Welcome to the element is everything podcast where we discuss real world experiences, research and strategies around finding your element, what it is, how to do it, and how to support others in developing it. Please welcome your host with over 30 years experience in public education and independent learning, Terri Novacek.

Terri Novacek  0:49  
Imagine paving your own path for learning and professional development, the freedom to determine your own learning objectives, resources, and work products. For some, that is not the least bit appealing. Many would rather have someone else tell them what to do and how to do it. That's definitely the easier way and that lower level of personal accountability can be like your favorite pair of fuzzy slippers. But even fuzzy slippers get old and wear out, leaving you with well, cold and unprotected feet. Hello, I'm Terri and this month our focus is on the personalized learning plan. Now I recognize the word plan can be like a dirty word to some. And for someone like me who is always preaching about how learning should be natural. You might be wondering, why am I talking about plans? Well, you always have a plan, even if it's a plan not to have a plan. Some are comfortable throwing caution to the wind and just going with the flow. Others are neurotic planners, constantly overthinking over worrying and preoccupied with that plan. I can honestly say there are times in my life when I have been both. But like everything balance is key, the Goldilocks rule, you know, not too much, not too little, not too hard, not too easy. So first and foremost, in designing a learning plan, one must know thyself, whether you as the learner or you as the mentor. It's important to know where the learner stands as far as foundational knowledge and skill, personal experiences and lifestyle, interests and hobbies, talents and strengths, challenges, personality traits, preferred modalities, and environment and personal goals. Oh my gosh, Terri, are you kidding me? No, I'm not. I know it sounds like a lot but hear me out. The ultimate goal is for the learner to be self aware and self advocate. It's not your job as the parent, mentor or teacher to know everything. It's your job to make sure the learner does. Too often we look at students and say, okay, you're in such and such grades, so you will learn X, Y and Z. There's nothing wrong with that. As long as the student has all the preliminary skills mastered, is able to use interests and talents to learn the new skills and is able to design work to accommodate their challenges, and allowed to address personal goals in the overall plan. A personalized learning plan goes beyond allowing a student to select a novel from a list of titles only to complete a standardized assignment for literature analysis later. While there will be some common expectations, like reading at a certain level, and being able to identify plot and conflict, characters, and setting there's no end to the ways in which those objectives can be met. Okay, so moving on to the parts of the plan. Let's begin with learning objectives and resources. We're going to do a deeper dive into resources later this month. So I'm just going to touch on the surface here. State standards. These can be found on your state's Education website for every subject area. Some schools follow them to a tee. For others, they serve as a general guide. Even within a school teachers will use them at varying degrees. There are state adopted textbooks used in schools which are adopted well, because they cover the state adopted standards. To the textbook industries credit, they really have come a long way No longer are they simply a read the chapter and answer the questions at the end type of text. They now include projects, exercises and inquiry and extension activities. Personally, as an educator, I use a textbook as a guide. As a learner, I don't use them at all. As much as I enjoy reading, I just can't cuddle up with a textbook. I'd rather read multiple sources of information on a topic for an hour, then read a textbook chapter for half an hour in order to learn something. But that's me. I'm a firm believer in getting more than one opinion or perspective. Curriculum guides, there is a plethora of information on the web for curriculum guides. And even if your child attends a site based school, you might find that he or she has some interests or learning gaps not being met at school, and decided to take that on at home. Research homeschool curriculum, there are a ton of websites managed by experienced homeschool parents that have done all the work for you. The is one that comes to mind. has a great list of free curriculum as well. But whatever you do, make sure to take the time to understand the purpose behind the learning objective. What are you learning? And why? What are you asking someone else to learn? And why? Do you feel good about the answer to that question? If you were a teacher, and your answer to why do I have to learn this? Is something along the lines of because of the state the school or I say so, please rethink your career, because you are not doing our youth justice. You're not doing yourself any good either. You're simply earning a paycheck, you're not operating in your Element, and your lack of passion will poison rather than nourish your students. So it's important to know why. Why does the school require it? Why is it a standard? How will this skill or knowledge make you a better person, improve your life, make the world a better place. And one more thing to remember, needs before deeds. That's my own saying for taking inventory of learners and teachers needs before determining the deed or action or assignment. 

Terri Novacek  8:45  
A teacher needs a student to learn how to calculate the circumference of a circle. A parent needs a child to get along well with others at school. But a child has needs too. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist in the early 1900s who developed Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He recognize there is a priority when it comes to human needs, with basic physical needs like food, water, warmth and safety as the foundation or the bottom of the triangle. Only when those needs are met, can psychological needs such as relationships and a sense of belonging be attained. And only then can one achieve self actualization or what we add Element Education referred to as your Element your full potential. It's important the learning objectives meet the learner where they are that the learner has already mastered the prerequisite skills and they feel safe, respected and encouraged. In the examples I just used, the student will need to know how to multiply to recognize and understand symbols and the following multi step instructions, the child will need to know how to take turns, share and communicate thoughts and needs in a respectful manner. And if the learner or child is going through a rough time, don't force it. Check in on the foundational needs. The brain of a malnourished or scared child is not at a place to meet your expectations in math, or class, or on the playground. Next, determine what methods to use for benchmark reflection, also known as assessment.

Terri Novacek  10:39  
Now, assessment tends to get a bad rap. I think it's because we've become so focused on standardized assessment. But it really shouldn't be dreaded. And I'm not just saying that because I'm one of those people that are good test takers. In fact, I'm not, I'd rather complete a one month project than take a one hour test. In the personalized learning world, however, assessment is done often. And in many forms. The learner looks forward to assessment because it's used to gauge progress, identify gaps, and adjust the Learning Plan. It's not a gotcha, no high stakes high pressure thing that tends to motivate cheating more than learning. We'll be diving deeper into assessment later this month as well. So once you know why you're learning what you're learning, and how you will demonstrate or assess your learning, we determine the work or as some would say, assignments. I've never really cared for the term assignment. While it has a cool factor in movies like Mission Impossible. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it. It is something someone else wants you to do. And for those of you saying, Well, yeah, that's the real world. I don't disagree. And I'm not saying I don't think we should only have to learn what we want to learn. I'm just saying, again, there should be a balance, the Goldilocks rule, not everything mandated by an authority and not everything at the whim of the learner. And so together mentor and mentee, adult and child, teacher and student decide what will be done in order for the learner to learn. Will they be gaining a skill or just knowledge, if they are only gaining knowledge should they be taking it to a higher level and applying that knowledge to gain a skill? What action or activity will develop and demonstrate the building of knowledge and skill. Lastly, determine who will make up the personal learning network. Now there's the obvious, like a formal teacher and parents, but who else plays a role or could play a role in the learning process. Don't just think train teachers in college degrees. There are people everywhere who know a lot about a lot and would be thrilled to mentor someone else. And it doesn't have to be people you meet face to face, or even. And it doesn't have to be people you meet with face to face or even camera. It can be people you follow via social media blogs, or well podcasts. Whether you and I have ever met technically, because you're listening to this podcast, I have officially become part of your personal learning network. And I am honored by the way we'll be touching more on personal learning networks in two weeks when we discuss resources. 

Terri Novacek  14:19  
And now some final thoughts. Whether a student in a traditional school setting, a homeschool student, a parent honing your parenting skills, a hobbyist perfecting your talent, or a professional seeking more from your work, be sure your learning plan speaks directly to who you are as a learner. Have faith in yourself and the learning process. Every mistake will be a lesson learned and another twist in the road conquered. And remember, this is one time when it is appropriate to take something personally. 

Terri Novacek  14:58  
Next week we meet with an author and founder of the Learning Success Institute on how to prepare the environment for personalized self-determined learning. In the meantime, take some time to put your plan in writing. A template is provided in the show notes for this episode on the Element Is Everything website. Or you can design your own planet as loose or structured as best fits your needs. After all, it is your learning plan.

Personalized Learning Plan Template