Moving a district toward personalized learning is hard but necessary work, observed one of the participants in the session on district conditions for scaling personalized learning© that Matt Williams and I led at the National School Board Association’s (NSBA’s) conference on Saturday. Another emphasized the importance of starting with a vision for learning and building out supporting elements, such as district technology policy, around that vision, instead of addressing each element piecemeal.
Indeed, all of the district leaders whom my colleagues interviewed about district conditions for scaling personalized learning© emphasized the importance of having a shared vision supported by everyone from board members to educators to community partners. Other meta-themes spanning interviewees’ more detailed strategies included cultivating a district culture that is consistent with the vision and operating transparently so that all stakeholders can see how plans are unfolding and can feel free to take risks while pursuing new approaches.
Saturday’s NSBA conference session focused on moving innovation beyond isolated pockets of excellence to systems of excellence that align the elements of their student engagement and operations such that districts can scale personalized learning environments. The session looked not just at what KnowledgeWorks has learned from speaking with district leaders, but also at the future possibilities described in our infographic on the future of learning and our recent paper on innovation pathways toward vibrant learning ecosystems.
In so doing, the conversation highlighted the excitement that can come from pursuing a new vision for learning, whether that involves changing the physical learning environment, using real-time data to inform instruction, or personalizing professional development and its certification so that teachers can experience the kind of learning to which we aspire for students.
School boards have a unique and integral role to play in implementing conditions that help districts scale personalized learning environments. Without school boards’ vision and leadership, and without their partnership with district staff, establishing the conditions necessary to foster innovation, scale new and successful practices, and prepare for the future of learning is impossible. The district policies required to enact personalized learning at scale will reflect a school board’s visionary leadership.