PLPs and Falling Leaves

Hello again! It’s Miles, and I have more prompts for which I have to respond. These are based on the research that we did over the last few weeks. This was individualized research unlike the earlier phase of the year; we all chose our own topics and decided how to research (what methods, who to talk to, etc.) I chose to focus on the topic of Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs), with a focus on their application in high schools in Vermont. I was very excited and still am excited about this topic; it is a topic that I have wanted to explore for quite some time. I am passionate about the topic of PLPs because I think that there is a lack of education about PLPS (as I will talk about later). Well, enough of that. Let’s get started on the prompts!

How / What I Learned:

I initially decided to do my research in two phases; starting with general research on policies regarding PLPs and putting my learning into a more comprehensive form via a mind map. The first phase went well enough until I ran into two hurdles: a lack of information about PLPs in anything higher than elementary school and an influx of AP Calculus homework. I was able to overcome the latter, but I still am at a lack for information about PLPs in my target grade range. Through the next week, I continued to research, and ran into a good source; the Vermont Department of Education’s digital coursework to help teachers understand how to implement PLPs. This resource didn’t give me much additional information (I had already come across most of the information that was presented) but it did give me insight into what, or who, I might want to pursue next: high school PLP coordinators, supervisors, and reviewers. I especially would like to learn what PLP reviewers have to say; since they are often otherwise normal teachers, they can provide insight into two areas that I lack information about. To clarify, when I refer to “PLP reviewers”, I am referring to the teachers and other people who participate in the review meetings for seniors hoping to graduate. This process has next to no information anywhere on the Internet (at least as far as I could see), and it directly impacts essentially all high schoolers in Vermont at one time or another. So, this was a major roadblock in my research. Because of those setbacks, I did not end up completing my mind map, since there were significant holes in the information that I wanted to present. I still would like to add more to the mind map, but it isn’t my highest priority.

Perspective / Angle:

I talked about this area a bit in the last prompt, but essentially, here’s what I think still needs to be answered. As said before, I think more clarification about the graduation process is needed. In addition, I think that it would be valuable to get insight from current high school students about how their schools are dealing with PLPs; I have a very skewed lens on this issue since my school is less than exemplary with their implementation of PLPs. I have heard that other schools are finding better and more effective methods of getting students to create PLPs and would love to dig deeper to figure out what they’re doing “right” as opposed to other schools. Yet another area that I feel more information would have to be found in is the actual PLPs; what the information is, how it’s presented, what it is used for, etc. I think that this is a critical area because the field of PLPs is so open ended; there may be a correlation between the format of a PLP and the success of a student making said PLP. This can also connect to the topic of educating students about PLPs; how teachers and support staff explain and support their students’ PLP learning progress. On the whole, there is a lot I want to know about and not that much information that I can find right now.

On a different note, I think that I could find many unique approaches towards a project on PLPs, ranging from a project focusing on students to a project focusing on expanding awareness to a closer look into the schools that are experiencing success. All of these different approaches could be quite productive, but I have one that I would favor: a project designed to give essentially a crash course on everything PLP related that would be aimed for first years through juniors. The reasoning behind this is that although some schools may be succeeding, there are many others that still would benefit from help. I know that I would’ve liked to get a comprehensive chunk of information about PLPs when I entered high school and have found that many of my peers share that opinion. I think that making a product aimed at younger high school students would be more impactful since they still have plenty of time to make their PLPs exactly what they want them to be like as opposed to seniors, who have a year or less until they present their PLPs. Also, since PLPs are supposed to document all four years, the earlier a student is given information, the more work and learning can be documented in that same student’s PLP.

My Current Enthusiasm:

If you haven’t noticed, I am extremely passionate about this topic, so it is hopefully evident that I want to pursue it. The main hurdle that might come up would be a lack of a group; I am unsure about how well I could perform in a solo team. Aside from that, I cannot think of many other hurdles. I am still open to being in a team focusing on a different topic; I have done What’s the Story twice already, so I am fairly certain that I can find another topic that I would want to make a film about. 

Well, that’s all the prompts. I think that this next section of the year is going to be really interesting and enjoyable, and can’t wait to see who I end up working with this year. There is such a variety of learners this year that I’m sure whoever I work with will be able to teach me a lot about what they know. I’m also excited to get working on the films; the filmmaking portion has consistently been my favorite in my prior years. While the fall may be coming to an end, this program is just getting started. To all of the other cohort members, let’s do this. Although it may not be the same as an in person overnight retreat, there are bound to be a lot of great ideas next weekend. Anyways, that’s all from me, and I’ll see you all later!

(PS. – the photo was taken just around a year ago at a WtS retreat!)

Miles Ellis Novotny

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