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Personalizing Learning for Educators: Measuring What Works

by Beth Rabbitt on November 2 2019

In the world of school improvement and innovation, where we ask communities of teachers to change how they are working to better support each student, adult learning is a (if not THE) critical lever for change.

For this reason, we’ve focused on teacher training and professional learning at TLA since our founding, seeking to build the capacity of educators to master new knowledge and skills and then effectively transfer them into day-to-day classroom practice. We have worked across the country with districts and support organizations to develop new teacher and leader learning resources, and have issued guidance for leaders on strategies to create educator learning experiences that are as personalized and mastery-based as the ones we seek to create for students. Through the launch of the Learning Commons, we networked resource creators to help educators search across resources from over 20 professional learning entities to leverage for their own training efforts. Most recently, we’ve launched a new community of practice, in partnership with InnovateEDU, to help districts and professional learning organizations work together as they share ideas and develop new approaches.

An ongoing challenge lies in understanding the efficacy of these different adult learning strategies. How do we know if the work of professional learning is leading to meaningful, measurable differences in student experiences and outcomes? Which strategies work best, and for whom?

In early 2019, TLA launched a new partnership with Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) to explore how we might answer these questions. Located in the central valley of California, LUSD is a pioneer in performance-based learning (TLA developed a deep case study of their work in 2016). Recently, as a recipient of a federal Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Grant, LUSD has launched an initiative to use personalized, competency-based strategies to ensure their teachers (called “learning facilitators”) develop instructional practices that are linked to clear, student-level Look Fors (developed in partnership with Transcend Education and Summit Learning). Through prototyping and testing, LUSD is seeking to understand how these different approaches will affect learner experiences and academic achievement.

TLA joined the effort as a research and learning partner for a multi-stage data project, helping LUSD develop the research capacity to connect the dots between specific professional learning approaches and learner outcomes. This work will be formative, and we aim to share learnings as they come, building more robust data sets for deeper analysis over time. The first report, focused on Guided Reading as a personalized learning strategy and its impact on student reading achievement, launched last month. You can access the report, as well as more information about the project, here.

Over the next year, TLA and LUSD will be working together to explore the efficacy of different professional learning strategies. We’ll also be building critical technology infrastructure with our partner Yet Analytics to connect disparate data systems, setting the stage for the LUSD team to keep learning and reflecting over time, personalizing educator training and discovering what works in driving classroom change for learners at all levels. Expect more from our team in the months to come as we publish new reports and share our findings!

About the Author

Beth Rabbitt is CEO of The Learning Accelerator and a nationally recognized expert in education innovation and blended and personalized learning.