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Student self-motivation at heart of pilot program in Shelby Co. elementary, high schools; 3PT (path, place, pace, time) designed to boost "personalized learning" management

Sentinel-News, Shelbyville, Aug. 31, 2016

Learning new ways to learn
SCPS is piloting a new program that is taking personalized learning to a new level, allowing students to set their path, place, pace and time in a more relaxed, but self-motivated 3PT program.
By Ashley Sutter

The sight of tables and chairs in the hallways and students coming and going as they please into classrooms laden with couches, recliners and bean bags could be misleading to a visitor. But what may seem like chaos to outsiders is a solution for many students in Shelby County.

A new program called 3PT – path, place, pace and time – affords select students at Heritage, Southside and Clear Creek elementary schools and Shelby County and Collins high schools the opportunity to have more control over their day.

Clear Creek Principal Kim Willhoite said her school’s 3PT program, The Summit, like others around the district, reflects the demographic of the school and consists of students from lower income families, minority students, those that struggle as well as those achieving at higher levels.

“So we have a whole mix of all of those kids in The Summit program,” she said, explaining that they are hoping to discover what works best for each of their students. “We are trying to find ways to unlock learning for all of our students and we feel like this is another way that we want to explore as a good way to be able to do that for some of our students.”

Southside Elementary teacher Amanda Atkins, who taught 3rd grade last year, said her school’s 3PT program, QUAD, is an exciting new way of learning but certainly different and calls for teachers and students to be extremely flexible. She added that the program would be beneficial for students who need those options but requires them to have discipline in their own schedules.

“They have to have a lot of selfmotivation and be very structured themselves,” she said.

SCPS Public Relations Coordinator Ryan Allan said the program, while exciting and new, is not necessarily right for all students. “Some students excel at the more rigid, structured, traditional system that we all know.”

John Leeper, Director of Innovation for College and Career Readiness, agreed.

“Ultimately what we want is for students and parents to have a choice in the kind of education that they receive,” he said. “Traditional methods in education have worked very well for several of our graduates. But we know that there are a lot of those graduates who were just floating through school.”

Allan said that was what drove the district to pilot the 3PT learning model. Traditional methods of learning catered to the middle majority of the student body but those falling behind or moving ahead may have felt left out.

But for 3PT students like Dalton Revels at SCHS, this learning model allows them the opportunity to focus on subjects where they are struggling and spend less time on a subject or a task that they’ve already grasped. It gives the student ownership of his or her learning and ideally makes the classroom experience more enjoyable.

“I didn’t really enjoy school as much and 3PT kind of encouraged me to work harder and just make school way more fun,” Revels said.

Melinda Hardin, whose daughter is in the program at Southside, said they are thrilled with QUAD for similar reasons.

While her daughter loved her teacher last year, Hardin said she wasn’t in love with the type of classroom experience she was stuck with.

“This sort of learning style just suits her so much better,” Hardin said of 3PT. “She was a kid who was just dragging to school some days last year but now she just can’t wait to get to school. She comes home, leaps into the car, immediately starts chatting about the day. She’s so, so excited, she wants me to know every detail.”

Hardin said she also loves that her daughter gets daily interaction with several teachers.

“Not one person can be expected to be everything for every child when you have so many,” she said, noting that different teachers will speak to different aspects of each student. “I think that’s a really cool opportunity for them to have at such a young age.”

And Clear Creek Summit student Kailani Fisher said that’s an aspect of the model she appreciates, as well.

“I really like that we have different teachers and we can switch because they have different personalities,” she said, adding that not every teacher teaches in the same way. Some show more videos,
which is best for some students, while others are more interactive, which is the preference for other students, she said.

Fisher is in the Talented and Gifted program at Clear Creek and she tends to learn at a faster pace so she said The Summit is ideal for her.

“I’m able to pace myself how I need to and challenge myself,” she said. “I really like The Summit. I think it’s really cool because ... on Schoology we have our own courses on our Chromebooks so if we need to, if we’re ready for it, we can just go ahead and do the next unit – we can just keep at the same pace.”

SCHS 3PT instructor Sara DeWitt said the learning model does not just afford students the opportunity to learn in a new way, but it’s teaching them valuable life skills, as well. “They are really learning beyond the content more life skills – time management, organization – that they don’t necessarily get as much in traditional class.”

At the newly opened Big Picture Learning Academy, Allan described the learning style as the epitome of 3PT.

Principal Phillip Conder said while all schools in the district personalize learning for students, BPS is personalizing education like no other school in the district. Through networks creating internship opportunities, students receive real world experience while still meeting their educational needs. In addition, they are focused on meeting the students at their level.

“Used to, you had to get to where the teacher was – ‘This is where I’m teaching now, so you should be here and if you’re not, well then you just got left behind and you’re going to have to catch up on your own or figure it out from somebody else,’” Conder said. “In this model, we come back to where the kid is and structure it around there,” he said. “That’s the whole point with personalizing learning.”

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