Finding a Path - Exploring Personalized Learning in ELA

posted Mar 3, 2017, 9:31 AM by Desiree Kiesel   [ updated Mar 14, 2017, 11:51 AM ]
On the Standards and Instructional Support team, we have a simple question that really drives all of our work...How can we provide content to students in a manner that engages them deeply, and results in deep and meaningful learning!  While the question may be simple, the answer is anything but!  As any teacher knows, engagement strategies are a dime a dozen.  Some work, some don't.  Some work with some kids, and bomb with others.  Through all of this trial and error, we have landed on one belief that seems to be at the core of successful schools and programs.  The more we are able to personalize learning, and provide students with both authentic tasks, and an authentic audience, the more meaningful that learning becomes.  Because of this, we have invested time and resources into exploring this concept, and have been working diligently to provide resources to the field.  

In fact, Oregon has some of the most innovative OARs in the country when it comes to awarding credit.  OAR 581-022-1131 says "Districts are required to grant credit towards the diploma or modified diploma if a student demonstrates defined levels of proficiency or master of recognized standards by any one or more of the following options..."  These options include:
  • Successfully completing classroom or equivalent work (e.g. supervised independent study, career-related learning experiences, project based learning), which meets common curriculum goals and academic content standards;
  • Successfully completing classroom or equivalent work designed to measure proficiency or mastery of identified standards (knowledge and skills) in a class or out of class where hours of instruction may vary;
  • Successfully passing an appropriate exam designed to measure proficiency or mastery of identified standards (knowledge and skills);
  • Providing a collection of work or other assessment evidence which demonstrates proficiency or mastery of identified standards (knowledge and skills); or
  • Providing documentation of prior learning activities or experiences which demonstrates proficiency or mastery of identified standards (knowledge and skills) (e.g., certification of training, letters, diplomas, awards, etc.).
These credit pathway options are designed to allow schools to work with students, and develop pathways for learning that are truly personalized, and by extension truly meaningful to the students.

It is with this lens that I come to you today, and ask that you think deeply about ELA, and how we can create personalized opportunities to reach our students.  Unfortunately, often ELA is taught as though the expectation is that all students will eventually become literature majors.  However, when we look at tends at colleges for major selection, we know that isn't the case.  It begs the question, how can we use the knowledge and skills expected in ELA--Reading, writing, speaking, and listening--to explore the world beyond literature?  

Think journalism...Think story telling...Think blogging and podcasting...Think beyond the cannon.  

Students from Ed Madison's journalism program.

I want to share with you an example of one such personalized pathway developed by Ed Madison from the University of Oregon.  Dr. Madison is a former journalist, and currently works in the U o fO School of Journalism.  But his passion lives with students, and helping them find their voice through print media.  He has worked with several public schools to develop journalism programs, fully aligned to the common core, to help students not only gain the important knowledge and skills needed to be a successful ELA student, but also the critical thinking needed to be a journalist.  Partnering with teachers, and journalism students, Dr. Madison has created programs that help students understand the critical role journalist play in our society, as well as how to be good consumers of the media.  It is programs like this that begin to create new and innovative pathways forward for students, and create truly personalized learning paths.  

For more information about this program, or how your school could get involved, check out the links in the box below.  And for more information about personalized learning, or accelerated learning options, contact our Educational Specialist Jennell Ives at


Video Resources
  • Newsworthy by: Ed Madison - Newsworthy provides educators with specific journalistic learning strategies to achieve positive out comes on the common core, and engage students in new ways. 
  • Journalistic Learning - This website contains valuable resources and tools to support journalistic learning in the classroom.
  • Digital Workshop - provides teachers and students with free learning modules that address core competencies for college- and career-readiness as outlined by the Common Core State Standards.
For more information...

Ed Madison, Lead Researcher,
Maya Lazaro, Program Coordinator, 

Desiree Kiesel,
Mar 14, 2017, 11:51 AM