Marshall Co. prepares to expand project-based/personalized learning throughout the district; high school to add career academy for "deeper learning" schedule...

Tribune-Courier, Benton, Feb. 22, 2017

PBL and non-traditional learning models to expand district-wide
By Rachel Keller Collins

Marshall County Schools in the summer of 2015 began putting more emphasis on preparing its educators to teach their students 21st Century skills, grooming them for jobs we can’t yet imagine due to the vast and quick-paced changes in technology. At that time approximately 100 teachers attended Project-Based Learning (PBL) training. In the summer of 2016, approximately 100 more educators were trained in PBL and in Aug. of the same year, some elementary schools implemented alternative learning models.

Beginning this school year, approximately 80 more teachers will receive PBL training and alternative learning models will be offered in all elementary schools as well as the middle schools and high school.

Marshall County Schools Instructional Supervisor Abby Griffy said, “Personalized learning involves students actively working with the teacher to design their learning goals. In personalized learning environments, students learn at their own pace in order to reach mastery and have a choice on how they wish to show evidence of mastery. Personalized learning also connects learning to students’ interests, talents, and passions; the students are at the center of this learning environment.”

Griffy said the classrooms are typically large open spaces, with couches, bean-bag chairs, bar stools and tables that allow the students the freedom of seating. She said the process, by design, requires students to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills, effectively communicate to an audience, create and innovate to find solutions, and to collaborate with each other to achieve the desired outcome, all of which are 21st century skills students must have for their future. The non-traditional learning model at the elementary level is called the ‘Discovery Model.’

Last year, she said, the Discovery Model was only offered at three of the six elementary schools but this year it will be offered all six.

Griffy said both North Marshall Middle and South Marshall Middle are planning to offer two learning models to their students in the upcoming year. She said while both plan to refer to the PBL and personalized learning model as ‘Explore,’ each school’s model may look a little different.

Griffy said the high school is also jumping on board and offering two learning models this upcoming year with the PBL and personalized learning model known as, ‘Quest Academy.’ She said now is the time for parents of the incoming freshman class to learn more about the program. She said Quest Academy students will base their course work around their career goals and their personal learning interests while placing an emphasis on experimental learning and exploration.

Another model that will be offered at the high school level is the ‘Career Academy.’

“The Career Academy is another school model that will be offered to juniors and seniors interested in pursuing further learning in Culinary Arts, Welding, Carpentry, Auto Collision Repair and Auto Tech. In order to apply for the Career Academy, students must have the prerequisite classes offered their freshman and sophomore year,” she said. “The Career Academy will allow students to move through core classes at their own pace using a blended model of teacher instruction and technology. The model is designed to give students a larger block of time for deeper learning in the career of their interest, which will also utilize learning through internships.”

Griffy said more information regarding each school’s models is available by visiting the school’s website or contacting the school directly.

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