District starts move towards personalized learning

As the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District approaches the start of the 2017 to 2018 school year, administrators and teachers are starting to implement the early stages of a new educational approach: personalized learning.

In conjunction with the personalized education consulting group, Education Elements, the district is shaping what personalized learning will look like throughout the different schools and classrooms that make up the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

“We are very excited to work with Education Elements as a part of our strong investment in our staff,” Superintendent Sean Dusek said in a statement on the district’s website. “We are poised to make significant progress in personalizing the educational experience for all of our students and this professional development will help us fulfill our long term goals in this endeavor.”

In the weeks leading up to students in the hallways, administrators and teachers have been meeting with the Education Elements team to start their professional development with a focus on personalized learning.

First comes understanding what personalized learning is, according to Education Elements Associate Partner Scott Johns.

“We want to design our classrooms around the needs of students, so that all students can be successful,” Johns said. “Not just a few classrooms that meet in the middle, we want schools and classrooms that meet the needs of every student.”

To achieve this, four core elements are used — the integration of digital content, targeted instruction, data-driven decisions and student reflection and ownership.

Instead of expecting students to adapt to structures that may not be successful for them, personalized learning structures the schools, classrooms and instruction to best fit individual students’ needs, according to a letter from Dusek to district staff.

“Ultimately, we are aiming for learning anytime, anywhere, with technology as a tool to provide more rigor and relevancy in a student’s education,” Dusek said. “This is a necessary component of personalized learning.”

Over the course of three years, Education Elements will work with the district in phases, with the first wave of schools starting their work with personalized learning this upcoming school year and the final phase of schools starting in August of 2019.

“We’re trying to be open and transparent,” Johns said. “It’s a process and will take time to develop. We don’t just say ‘do this, or do that.’ It’s a process where we say ‘What does this mean for Kenai? What do you want to create? What do you want classrooms to look like?’”

Education Elements began their work in May with a kick-off event and are moving forward with personalized learning in the district at two levels, at the individual school level and the overarching district level.

It’s important, though, for the community to also be cognizant of what personalized learning is.

“We want to be sure that parents, community members and students understand that student needs matter,” Johns said.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com