Changing the Paradigm of Adult Learning
Project-based Personalized Professional Learning at Dan D. Rogers Elementary School
In 2013, we teamed up with Dallas Independent School District (DISD) as a design partner 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.
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. In 2014, 33 percent of third graders were scoring satisfactory in reading, 44 percent in math, and 33 percent in writing. 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 of 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. One other important learning also became abundantly clear: Although test scores were rising — in 2016, 44 percent of Rogers' students scored satisfactory in reading, 49 percent in math and 71 percent in writing (a 117 percent change!) — 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) was the bridge.
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. (Read more about 2Rev's personalized learning strategy here.) The work begins with a readiness assessment and then is a mix of in-person and blended supports tailored to each individual teacher's needs.
"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
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. (For example, one grade levels questions were TKTK. Another's was TKTK.)
In order to help people get to that culminating task of a PBL unit, we built a professional development experience that included focused learning sessions (blue, in the experience map to your right), time for implementation and testing in the classroom (pink), and reflection on that application of learning (red). 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.
In the past TKTK years, the Rogers' team has met many goals and continues to stretch and learn. Lovato was awarded Dallas Independent School District Leader of the Year; teachers are demonstrating deeper understanding and mastery of key components of PBL (as seen in data below); and there has been substantial academic growth (see table below). 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 assessment, 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.