Monday, January 15, 2018

Flexible Pathways v.2: Student Directed Learning

Even before Act 77 required flexible pathways for student learning, U-32 was providing student-directed learning options. Most students start with Branching Out (middle school and high school versions) and they choose one topic of study which usually takes one class in their schedule. That class time is used by the student to develop and carry out their study plan. There have been many great topics from American Sign Language and Italian to Physical Therapy and Law Enforcement. Other students have enjoyed pursuing their passions in Baking, Nutrition, Yoga, Guitar, Beekeeping and Herbalism. Students who excelled in, and enjoyed learning via Branching Out often carry on additional self-directed learning through either the Pilot or Community Based Learning programs.

Alternate Path to Graduation is a bit different. Students are usually completing their requirements for graduation (that might look like one or two credits they need to gather to finish out their program) but in the future the program may allow students to demonstrate skills and knowledge in the proficiency based system in order to graduate. In all cases, student directed learning is a great way for students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge outlined in the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). 

Photo courtesy of Karen Liebermann

Branching Out
Open to students in grades 9-12
Branching Out is a program for students who want to expand their learning beyond the classroom.
Branching Out is for students who want to:
  • Create individual learning plans based on their own goals and learning styles
  • Spend a portion of each week learning independently, outside of school
  • Get high school elective credit (or transferable skills) for completion of their learning plans
  • Study subjects not currently offered at U-32
  • Work and study with mentors in the community
Branching Out students need to:
  • Demonstrate independent study skills and a strong desire to learn
  • Cooperate, communicate, and keep commitments
  • Ask for and accept support from adults and peers
  • Be dedicated to learning and the development of self-discipline
Credit earned through Branching Out is elective only.  Branching Out studies are full year unless special permission for different timing has been approved. To enroll, students need to complete an application form and interview.  Acceptance is generally first come/first served, with priority given to new applicants or to juniors and seniors.  Interviews are conducted starting in March for the following academic year. For more information and/or an Application for Enrollment, please contact the Branching Out Advisor, Karen Liebermann or Student Services Office.


Photos courtesy of Pilot website (Grae Moriath)

The Pilot
Open to students in grades 9-12
The Pilot is a rigorous program of mentored independent study that allows U-32 students to design their own learning and  incorporate their passions and interests. Working with a committee of teachers and advisors, students create their own learning plans that address standards through project based work, internships, and classes that will be assessed by U-32 teachers. The Pilot seeks motivated, curious learners who are eager to pursue their passions and are looking for a different way to approach and take ownership of their education. Students gain a deeper understanding of who they are as learners in the Pilot, which allows them to take a hands-on approach and explore their interests. See current student work.

Kristina - For the first time in my whole life I have freedom in my learning, but so much responsibility comes along with it. Now I actually need to have awareness of “how” I learn, now I am teaching myself! (from the pilot blog)

To enroll, students need to complete an application with recommendations and an interview. Interviews are conducted in April for the following academic year. For more information please contact the Pilot Program Advisor, Amy Koenigbauer, or Student Services Office.

Photos courtesy of Pilot website (Conor Cooley and Karli Robertson)

Community Based Learning (CBL)
Students obtain experiences that engage the community as an extension of the classroom, for the purpose of career exploration, training, or genuine curiosity and interest in a subject area. Students will map out a learning plan with goals, take action steps, prove / document their learning with artifacts,  and understand all skills developed using the U32 SLO’s.  Time during the semester is spent in class, with the instructor, at an internship, or with a mentor in this student driven course.

Photo Courtesy of George Cook

Alternate Path to Graduation (APG)
The Alternate Path to Graduation is a high school completion program for students over the age of sixteen who are highly skilled and/or at risk of dropping out and/or not enrolled in school. The Alternate Path provides a comparable path to a degree for students over the age of sixteen who face special circumstances in achieving their degree. The Alternate Path to Graduation is in alignment with the Vermont Department of Education’s Flexible Pathways Initiative, created by Act 77