If we want to see authentic and real personalized learning come alive, we have to examine and nourish students’ psychosocial development. That’s where an advisory system comes in. In Students at the Center, Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind, Kallick and Zmuda stress that we have to work on the psychosocial development of our students in order for them to live well in the world. Students’ school days need to be filled with facing uncertainties and having a say in their own learning. Kallick and Zmuda break psychosocial development into four main areas:
- Relevance: “This work has value for me”
- Growth Mindset: “My ability and confidence grow with my effort”
- Self-Efficacy: “I can succeed at this”
- Sense of Belonging: “I belong in this academic community”
While advisory isn’t the only place psychosocial development should occur, it provides schools with a consistent pocket within the day to practice these attributes in a safe environment that is not directly tied with academics. It also provides students with a consistent learning family when academic schedules may change, especially at the secondary levels.
Based on trends in the field, the essential components of an advisory system are:
- Identity / positive school culture
- Academic and social-emotional learning monitoring
- Career awareness
- Extended learning opportunities
What is a school district example of what this might look like? Mesa District 51 in Grand Junction, Colorado, has been working on their advisory system for several years. They wanted to move from the buildings behaving like islands to an advisory system that is common across buildings. Using their vision, hopes and common definitions, they determined that their advisory system would involve these components:
- Student Led Conferencing
- Academic Monitoring
- Social Emotional Learning
Using self-assessment data on these components, they then set a goal for monitoring to improve that component of advisory. Now, not only do they have a common language to discuss their advisory in practice, they are also working together for continuous improvement.
If we want to personalize learning, we need to get personal with each and every student. Advisory is a winning ticket.