Building Identity Units Through the Personal Learning Framework

Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.

The school year is in full swing and as we build our learning communities, developing an understanding of student identity and their strengths and challenges is a critical step for educators. Most middle schools around the state have structures that work towards these goals. Specifically, teacher’s advisory, multiage teaming, and personal learning plans are all tools that can help teachers understand individual student needs, Using this knowledge to develop strong relationships with students and families can pay long-term dividends in student engagement and achievement.


Another tool that PLP Pathways has been using for the past several years is the Personal Learning Framework. Through the identification of specific stages in the student learning process, the framework can help teachers develop personalized learning activities that support positive relationships, identify key student dispositions, and inform the construction of curriculum that is relevant, engaging, and appropriate.

Personalized Learning Activities

The first six weeks of our program is built around the Identity phase of the Personal Learning Framework. Rather than have students read, write, and think about esoteric topics that might miss the mark, students are asked to evaluate their strengths and challenges, to identify principles and values as reflected through their positive relationships, and to closely observe both their immediate learning environment and cultural norms of the school and community.

Teachers around the state have developed innovative activities that also integrate standards-based proficiencies into these activities. Samples of these lessons can be found here. The result is that teachers are gaining better insight into their students’ skill sets, leveraging that understanding into the development of strong student-teacher-family relationships, and having students post identity-based evidence onto their PLP.

The benefits of integrating proficiency-based learning activities into an identity unit is clear. Teachers gain a deep understanding of students often leading to positive relationships. Second, adolescents are engaged when activities focus on their needs, skills, and potential. Furthermore, by systematically planning identity activities, teachers can develop personalized curriculum that supports student growth and learning. As you move forward, consider using the Personal Learning Framework as a lens to develop curriculum and activities that enrich and focus your understanding of students into effective teaching practice.