How Professional Learning Communities and Personalized Learning Can Change the Education Culture

CoachingAs students adjust to the hardships caused by the global pandemic, Burrell School District leaders are focused on providing the support needed to ensure that students do not fall behind the learning curve.

The district is providing training and resources to teachers to help provide personalized support for students who fell behind in their course work because of setbacks related to COVID-19. The teacher’s coaches emphasize the academic and social-emotional-behavioral interventions and support that can be provided through Professional Learning Communities and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.

The idea is to provide teachers with new approaches that offer students the personalized learning they need, a concept referred to as helping students by name and by need. Support is provided at multiple levels, depending on each student's needs. It is not just academic help, but also the emotional help that students also may need, said Dr. Autumn Turk, the district's director of curriculum and development. The emphasis includes supporting students with career-ready skills, approaches to becoming mindful thinkers, and the development of non-academic skills. 

Coaches work with teachers as full-time substitutes pick up classroom duties to cover for them during the professional development process. School and district leaders meet weekly with coaches and teachers, and in some cases leaders will co-teach or take over a class to help teachers find the time needed for their professional development.

By emphasizing personalized learning techniques, the district's initiative can reach all students in the classroom and provide teachers with new instructional strategies. Targeted support is available for more specialized needs, through behavior specialists, counselors, and a social worker. 

"We're finding that we have many more students needing intensive reading support," Turk said.

While this program turned out to be quite useful in the wake of the pandemic as some students struggled to meet learning goals, it will also help teachers adapt to a new culture of learning through personalized support that can continue long after the virus' threat. 

"It is something we hope to embed in our culture," Turk said.

District leaders are partnering with the Consortium for Public Education to support these efforts. And the plan is to continue expanding the initiative to create more engagement, she said.

"We believe it is vital to engage our families in this work as well, so we will be adding some additional opportunities for collaboration with our families and community in the coming months," Turk said.


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