Personal Learning Plans

The recent enactment of ACT 77 is designed to help students achieve academic success, be prepared for post-secondary opportunities, and engage actively in civic life. One component of ACT 77 is the Personal Learning Plan. Beginning in the fall of 2015, Vermont schools will need to have a process in place that allow students to develop and implement a Personal Learning Plan.  The process will provide students with support in identifying  their learning strengths and challenges, needs and aspirations and then to develop flexible, short and long term goals aligned with the school’s academic expectations and the students’ desired pathway toward graduation. Personal Learning Plans – Vermont Agency of Education

At Harwood Union, we envision student ownership for learning being fostered through the Personal Learning Plan (PLP).  In collaboration with a network of adults – teachers, school counselors, mentors, parents and community partners, who provide the student with guidance and opportunities to confidently access multiple pathways of learning, the student will be empowered to make decisions about the types of learning environments he/she wants to experience throughout his/her education in order to meet high, clearly articulated graduation expectations.

Harwood Union Middle and High School in conjunction with Crossett Brook Middle School, was 1 of 18 schools that received a grant from the Vermont Agency of Education in the Spring of 2014 to begin this very important work.

The project is called the Washington West Personal Learning Plan Work Group and Pilot, and it is a collaborative effort between the two schools.  The work group and pilot group is comprised of teachers, school counselors and students who are committed to developing and implementing a process that is meaningful and productive for all stakeholders – students, teachers, parents, mentors and community partners.

To date, the Washington West Personal Learning Plan Work Group has created the following products:

  1. A digital Template for Personal Learning Plans in formats that are suited for macbooks, PCs and iPads and that take into account the Critical Elements indicated by the Vermont Agency of Education and align with the Harwood Graduation Expectations. These “Critical Elements” include, a student profile; student goals, school-wide expectation for learning; reflection and a transition plan.
  2. A Google Site Template students will use to maintain their Personal Learning Plan and evidence of work that demonstrates their growth towards and achievement of goals and the school-wide expectations for learning.
  3. A set of resources to support the teachers who, through the Teacher Advisory (TA) will “pilot” Personal Learning Plans with their students.  The Pilot is for a select group of students in grades 5-9. The resources will provide examples and tools for student profiling, goal setting and reflection along with strategies to build skills in giving and receiving feedback and presenting one’s learning to a broad audience.

The Washington West Personal Learning Plan Pilot is slotted for the 2014/15 school year. The teachers and students have been identified and are prepared to begin this ground breaking work. A pilot implementation process has been laid out along with a means to evaluate and make adjustments as necessary.             The Harwood Union Pilot Teachers:

HU Middle School

  • Nancy Spencer (7th Grade)
  • Sarah Ibson (8th Grade)

HU High School (9th Grade)

  • Jonah Ibson
  • Mary Holden
  • Sarah Butler

The Personal Learning Plan Pilot Process:

  • Throughout September and October, Pilot teachers, during Teacher Advisory (TA) will guide students through activities to develop a Personal Learning Plan, this includes developing a personal profile, developing goals and determining evidence that will be collected to demonstrate progress toward their goals and the achievement of identified learning expectations.
  • In late October/early November members of the Pilot will conduct student led goal setting conferences with TA teachers, school counselors, and parents/guardians.
  • November thru January, goal review, portfolio development and regular check ins/revisions will occur.
  • In January an electronic review with parent/guardian will take place.
  • Goal Review, portfolio development and regular check ins/revisions will continue January through May
  • Student led conference presenting progress and evidence toward Personal Learning Plan goals and drafting projected goals for the 2015-2016 year.

The Washington West Personal Learning Plan Pilot also includes a means to evaluate the process and make adjustments as necessary.  Throughout the year, the Pilot teachers and students will participate in an action-research learning community and use a facilitated methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of the process.  The group will make recommendations for next steps to include professional development training for teachers, a communication framework for students, parents and community partners.

Evaluation Strategies will include:

  • Data review (such as attendance, grades, discipline)
  • Student and Parent surveys in January and June
  • Comparative analysis between pilot and non-pilot advisories

In accordance with ACT 77, Harwood Union will implement Personal Learning Plans fully for all students in grades 7-10 in the 2015/16 school year.  The following year, 2016/17, grade 11 will be added and then by 2017/18 all Harwood students grades 7-12 will have Personal Learning Plans. In order to support the transition to Personal Learning Plans, Harwood Union has hired a .50 FTE, Personal Learning Plan Coordinator.  Ellen Berrings a long time Harwood faculty member has accepted this newly created position.  If you have questions about the Personal Learning Plan Project or how Harwood is implementing Personal Learning Plans, please contact her. (

There is one exception to the Personal Learning Plan implementation timeline.  ACT 77 also provides additional educational opportunities to students currently in grades 11 and 12.  These opportunities include Early College, Dual Enrollment and Work-based Learning.  In 2015, if students in grades 11 and 12 choose to access one or more of these pathways, then they will need to do so through the creation of a Personal Learning Plan.  These students will be fully supported in this process with the guidance of their school counselor and advisory teacher.

In Vermont, many changes are being made to the educational system.  It can be confusing and overwhelming for parents and community members who experienced school differently.  These changes though are to expand opportunities and empower students.  They are designed to increase student engagement, make learning relevant to the needs of the individual, and to every high school graduate is equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and career and as a citizen of democratic society – regardless of their entry point.





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