Conferences demonstrate personalized learning process in action

Last month we shared with you the core elements of Vermont’s Act 77: Personalization, Proficiency Based Learning, and Flexible Pathways. This month’s letter will highlight a great example of personalized learning for grades 9-11 at Champlain Valley Union High School.

March 23 was Personalized Learning Process Conference Day at CVU. It was a worthwhile event that enabled students in grades 9-11 to share their personalized learning process and get feedback from peers, and/or important adults in their lives.

The ninth grade referred to the day as “Exhibitions,” the 10th grade, “Round Tables,” and the 11th grade, “Launch.”

While each grade called it by a different name, what is common to each is the CVSD personalized learning process. This process asks students to continually connect, reflect, share and plan their learning in an effort to increase their voice, choice and sense of ownership over their learning.

Preparation for, and participation in, these personalized-learning conferences offered students an opportunity to engage in this cycle. The expectations for each year’s personalized learning build on the prior year’s in order to capture a representation of a student’s growth over time.

For example, ninth grade students are asked to identify a meaningful image and quote, some of their accomplishments, and some areas for growth. Tenth grade builds upon on that by asking students to reflect on an experience that has had a powerful impact on them, some of their core values, and the steps needed to achieve a goal. In the 11th grade, students are asked to consider how they can live up to their core values, and analyze how they engage with their learning.

Feedback from the personalized-learning conferences was positive. Some ninth grade students said that although they were nervous to present in front of an audience, they appreciated hearing feedback from people other than their families – including peers and the parents of peers – because they found it more meaningful. A few 10th graders said that because their conference felt more like a conversation than a presentation, they felt support and encouragement for their ideas and decisions for next year.

CVU teacher Jessica Lemieux said, “I truly loved my ninth grade exhibition. It was a wonderful opportunity to really hear my ninth graders’ voices and get to know their passions, strengths and challenges on a deeper level than can be achieved in advisory. I also love the guiding quote and image as it gives listeners something to attach the experiences to in a meaningful way as the student shares.”

CVU teacher Karen Needler said, “I’ve been thinking about how incredibly valuable Friday was for me and my students. The setting was perfect, including the provided prompts, to bring to light each student’s passion, ideas, uncertainties or frustrations/needs that we could talk about.  What was especially exciting to me was to be able to say, ‘Hey wait! We’ve got something that might be just the ticket for you! There’s a new course, there’s Nexus, there’s a teacher who is also interested in, there’s dual enrollment, there’s a tech program.’ And so on. Each kid perked up when they heard about our offerings, and I’ve been able to follow up with helping them put a plan into motion. I think it is so very important for us as a school to have that day to be with our students holistically, and even more important that we have and know the options to offer them.”

CVU teacher John Bennett said, “I had a particularly great experience in one of my [personalized-learning] meetings in which I used Jumprope to show how this student had progressed along CVU’s graduation standards. Both student and parent were pleasantly surprised to see how much growth had occurred in one particular area, one that neither had suspected was such a strength. I also found my 9th conference session to be very empowering for my 9th grade students and their families. That part definitely showed the “personalized” part of the [personalized learning process], as each student added their own voice and also found common ground with each other and their families. There are few things more powerful than shared common experiences and this conference definitely allowed everyone involved to experience that.”

CVU student Olivia Miller said, “The fact that the presentation required contemplation of some next steps we want to take regarding our interests was really helpful to me. I’d never really had a chance to think about how I can do the things I like to do, or specific real life experiences that connect to my interests.”

CVU Parent Karyn Bovia Miller said, “As a parent, I loved seeing how the students reflected on their growth and interests, and how to integrate those in to future goals. I was especially impressed with their ability to do this while navigating a new CVU community this year at the same time.”

Carly Rivard, CVU’s personalized learning coordinator, has been invaluable to the evolution of the personalized-learning system and has been a key resource for both staff and students.
She shared her vision for PLPs: “We are working to increase the structures and routines that allow for the [personalized-learning] process to become more integrated into every class and the advisory experience, as opposed to being focused on this one day event. It is also important to make the process feel more authentically connected between the grade levels and eventually to graduation. As it becomes clearer to everyone how graduation will be based on proficiency of the graduation standards, students will find even greater meaning and motivation to be engaged in the [personalized-learning] process.”

If you have any questions or ideas regarding the personalized learning process at CVU, please feel free to reach out to Rivard at

The Champlain Valley School District Board of Directors is:

Josilyn Adams, Williston; Kelly Bowen, clerk, St. George; Erin Brady, Williston; Russ Caffry, Shelburne; Dave Connery, Shelburne; Lynne Jaunich, chair, Charlotte; Colleen MacKinnon, vice chair, Hinesburg; Ray Mainer, Hinesburg; Kevin Mara, Williston; Barbra Marden, Shelburne; Jeff Martin, asst. clerk, Charlotte; Brendan McMahon, Williston; website:

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