Public Will - Vermont PLP Process

Public Will

The Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont Personalized Learning Plan Work Group have developed a series of resources to help schools consider ways in which they can plan for and implement Personalized Learning Plans. These resources will enable educators to work with their community members, parents, educators, and students to create a process and a product that considers the assets of the school and community while remaining focused on the unique qualities that each student brings to the learning process.

"Through having a personalized learning plan, I was able to create an academic environment that interested and challenged me. I am engaged and inspired by learning again. Personalized learning plans will make this possible for all students."

Abby Trombley, CVU student

Implementing Personalized Learning Plans requires active engagement of parents and community members, an engagement that moves beyond presentation and explanation to deep dialogue and the exchange of ideas. Often overlooked, community members can provide resources and insights that go far beyond financial commitments to ensure quality learning. Community engagement brings forth new ideas, creates new learning opportunities, and ensures that a full range of ideas can be brought to bear on this work.

Most community members see great value in personalizing students' academic experiences and engaging students in goal setting and planning for achievement. This does require, however, a shift in practice, and everyone would benefit greatly if educators take the time to work with community members to build further understanding, clarify the roles and responsibilities associated with Personalized Learning Plans, and share the intended outcomes.

Parents play a specific and important role in this work. Helping parents understand how this system operates enables them to partner with teachers to deepen learning for their children. Parental understanding and engagement are key components of successful implementation.

When considering how to engage the community while planning for and implementing a process for Personalized Learning Plans, the following steps and guiding questions may be helpful.

Step 1: Engage parents and the general public in understanding of the conceptual framework and PLP design


To ensure support from educators and parents, the school board and PLP committee members need to create strategies where public members may explore the purpose of Personalized Learning Plans—how PLPs work, how PLPs can increase student learning, and how PLPs will change learning. Parents and community members need to understand how this work will change the structures of school including time and locations of learning. Ultimately, the public needs to support these ideas to ensure successful implementation.

Guiding Questions for Discussion

  1. How will community members see this work as a great step forward for student learning?
  2. What concerns might be raised by parents and community members?
  3. How will you respond to accolades and concerns raised by community members?

Step 2: Create a communication plan to share the PLP and its implementation


When initiating any new initiative that will have considerable impact on the student learning process, it is important to educate the student body and community on the value of this approach. To do this effectively, a school's PLP committee and administration should devise a clear communication plan with focused and limited talking points that are centered around the outcome expected from this approach to teaching and learning.

Guiding Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the core message the school wants parents, students, and the general public to know about PLPs?
  2. What is the process for gathering feedback from constituents regarding this system?
  3. Who might be a sounding board for the message and language?
  4. How can faculty, students, and school board members be engaged as spokespeople for this work?
  5. What process will be used to ensure that messages from different people and buildings are consistent and aligned?

Step 3: Implement the communication plan with parents & general public


Utilizing the relationships that the school community has built with the media and other constituents, school members can implement the communication plan and build collective support for universal understanding of the intent of Personalized Learning Plans. Miscommunication and mixed messages from the faculty, student body, or misdirected media representatives will result in confusion and doubt related to the value of this approach. The communication from the school should be ongoing and allow for multiple opportunities to envision the concept within the school.

Guiding Questions for Discussion

  1. What public forums exist that you might use to share your message?
  2. How will school representatives ensure that there are multiple opportunities for parents and the general community to learn about and provide feedback regarding the PLPs?
  3. What is the role for students in helping to communicate this work?
  4. Who are the champions in the community for this effort and how might they best be used?
  5. Who is strongly opposed to this effort? How might you use their concerns to review the implementation plan?
  6. How will support be provided to the messengers?

Step 4: Implement the communication plan with the local media


Utilizing the relationship that the school community has built with the media, school members can implement the communication plan and build collective support for and universal understanding of the intent of Personalized Learning Plans. It is vital for schools to consider how its community members engage with media and provide information through those means. Free and social media has become woven into the fabric of daily lives in many families. Schools have the opportunity to deliver consistent messages directly to its community through these varied means in a timely and ongoing manner. It is also essential for schools to consider the roles and responsibilities of faculty and staff with regard to sharing stories of success and responding to inquiries associated with Personalized Learning Plans.

Guiding Questions for Discussion

  1. How might free and social media be used to enhance the impact of the message?
  2. How might school representatives formulate a relationship with key reporters or bloggers?
  3. How might training be provided for administrators regarding how to interact with and answer questions from the media?
  4. What process is regularly employed to share success stories with the media?
  5. How might support staff be trained to handle media inquiries?
  6. How will administrators be encouraged and expected to share and stay on a consistent message?
  7. How will internal communications be employed to ensure consistency of message regarding press inquiries and responses?

Resources Focused on Communication Strategies Between School and Community

How to Talk About School Improvement
Great Schools Partnership webinar and associated resources.

Toward Better Communication
by Jane Thornthwaite, MLA, Parliamentary Secretary for Student Support and Parent Engagement, British Columbia.

Ed Café
Structured gatherings around important and relevant educational topics in your community; topics can be edited from these resources to apply to PLPs and multiple and flexible pathways.

Media messaging
Effective approach to communicating the need to transition to a student-centered, personalized learning environment from British Columbia.


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