Changing the Paradigm of Adult Learning 

Project-based Personalized Professional Learning at Dan D. Rogers Elementary School

In 2013, we teamed up as a design partner with the Personalized Learning Department at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to help a cohort of eight school teams, over the course of six months, develop personalized learning models that would better meet the needs of students. Through this initiative, which was part of the Gates Foundations' Next Generation Systems Initiative (NGSI), five schools were chosen to implement their designs. Dan D. Rogers Elementary School was one—and we've been partners in this journey ever since—transitioning this year into helping them implement their vision and meet their goals. Here's a look inside what's happening.

 

Dan D. Rogers Elementary sits in the Northeast neighborhood of Dallas, serving nearly 500 kindergarteners through fifth graders. More than 16 languages are spoken amid the chatter of little voices; 61 percent of students are English Language Learners. During the holidays, the school cafeteria stays open, making sure families have access to warm meals. (Eighty-five percent of Rogers' families fall within the low socioeconomic status bracket.) Our work with Rogers' team has evolved since 2013 from developing teachers, using data, preparing for post-skills based instruction and learning, to deeper learning.

 
 

An Upward Journey

Like most schools, Rogers' students had many needs and it was a struggle to meet them all within the traditional model of school. (See the graphs below for a look at the data.) But under the helm of Principal Lisa Lovato, a seasoned educator, there was a big swing—up. First step: the team started using data rigorously, with the aid of technology, to inform and improve the quality of instruction. Data meetings were implemented to review formative assessment results, giving teachers a much deeper sense of where each child was and how to plan instruction to meet those needs. With that, and through the experiences with DISD and NGSI, came the realization that better instruction meant personalization. It was impossible to get where they wanted in a traditional model of school, things had to change. Another important learning also became abundantly clear: Although test scores were rising, in most cases, educators realized those academic skills alone were not going to prepare students for real life, and learning was never going to be much fun if kids spent most of the day practicing skills. School needed to become more relevant and engaging. Together we dove into thinking about how to solve for that, and project-based learning (PBL) became the bridge.

STAAR Assessment Data

 
Rogers' scores on the STAAR Assessment, a statewide exam, have continued to rise in reading, math, and writing. (with a slight dip in reading among third graders, which was a common trend across the whole state.) Test scores are not the only mark of improvement, but an important indicator. Teachers and leadership knew, though, that rising test scores alone were not enough and deeper learning needed to be pursued. To see more of Rogers' assessment data, check out this document and this one.

Rogers' scores on the STAAR Assessment, a statewide exam, have continued to rise in reading, math, and writing. (with a slight dip in reading among third graders, which was a common trend across the whole state.) Test scores are not the only mark of improvement, but an important indicator. Teachers and leadership knew, though, that rising test scores alone were not enough and deeper learning needed to be pursued. To see more of Rogers' assessment data, check out this document and this one.

 

Implementation Starts with Adults

But how can an educator implement a radically new way of learning, like PBL or personalized learning, without experiencing it for themselves? It would be hard, maybe even impossible. So our partnership with Rogers turned the traditional model of professional learning on its head: rather than just learn about PBL and personalization theoretically, educators experience the method for themselves with the help of coaches and become active researchers in applying it with students. 

 
 

"In our work, the teacher is the researcher. While students are learning, teachers are learning right alongside them. This is how real, deep transformation happens."

- Brigid Moriarty-Guerrero, Lead Coach & Instructional Designer, 2Rev

 
 
 
 

A Guiding Question

We use a range of tools, like empathy interviews and learner profiles, project design frameworks, experience mapping, and content, such as on-demand playlists, to support Rogers' teachers in their learning. but the most important part of our work together is strong, trusting relationships and engaging learning experiences. School shouldn't be dull, neither should adult learning.

We use a range of tools, like empathy interviews and learner profiles, project design frameworks, experience mapping, and content, such as on-demand playlists, to support Rogers' teachers in their learning. but the most important part of our work together is strong, trusting relationships and engaging learning experiences. School shouldn't be dull, neither should adult learning.

The work began in October 2016 with a shared driving question: How might we increase student engagement through PBL so that they can increase both academic and real world skills?

This question framed the work of designing and implementing a grade level PBL unit, while also allowing each grade level team and individual teacher to ask and answer their own questions within that scope. 

In order to help teachers master the culminating task of a PBL unit, we built a professional development experience that included focused learning sessions (blue circles in the experience map to your right), time for implementation and testing in the classroom (pink circles), and reflection on that application of learning (red circles). Readiness assessments, a mix of in-person and blended supports tailored to each individual teacher's needs, regular formative assessments, and a culminating performance assessment, were also incorporated into our time together.

 
 
 
AT rogers, the Learning we engage in as professionals reflects the PBL that teachers will co-create with students. Each educator's learning experience is personalized by our lead coaches.

AT rogers, the Learning we engage in as professionals reflects the PBL that teachers will co-create with students. Each educator's learning experience is personalized by our lead coaches.

Our team meets Monthly with Rogers' Staff. each visit has a performance assessment formative check-in that provides insight into educators' depth of understanding and lets coaches personalize the experience. On weeks we're not together, coaches provide virtual supports.

 
 

Teachers work in grade level teams, deepening their collective understanding of high-quality PBL through a continuous, collaborative improvement model.

 
 

"This is my first year doing PBL and I was honestly really intimidated about bringing this into the classroom, but thanks to 2Revs I've been able to embrace PBL with open arms."

- Rogers' Teacher

 
 

Impact

In the past three years, the Rogers' team has met many goals and continues to stretch and learn. In 2016, Lovato was awarded Dallas Independent School District Leader of the Year; teachers are demonstrating deeper understanding and mastery of key components of PBL; and students have demonstrated substantial academic growth on statewide assessments. Explore the data below for a deeper look into the impact.

 
PBL centers on authentic, real world projects—without this, the learning feels irrelevant and unimportant. the Authenticity of Projects table above signifies how well teachers can create and implement authentic projects. Application of student voice and choice is also a key component of pbl; 56.5 percent of rogers teachers have a strong understanding of how to do this well, as opposed to only 20 percent when we started the work.

PBL centers on authentic, real world projects—without this, the learning feels irrelevant and unimportant. the Authenticity of Projects table above signifies how well teachers can create and implement authentic projects. Application of student voice and choice is also a key component of pbl; 56.5 percent of rogers teachers have a strong understanding of how to do this well, as opposed to only 20 percent when we started the work.

 
 

What's Next

At 2Rev, we often think of learning as climbing a mountain. When we reach one peak, there's another summit to traverse. The work of deep transformation is this journey. In the next six months, we will help Rogers move into designing and implementing performance assessments, a natural evolution from PBL to ensure that the deep learning happening in projects is being adequately measured. Just like the student experience, the work and learning continues. We can't wait to see where Rogers' educators and students go next.