Webinar 6: Flexible Pathways
What are flexible pathways and why are they important? PLP Pathways contributors got together on Thursday, February 7th to discuss the many different opportunities that flexible pathways provide for students across the state of Vermont.
According to the AOE's website, "...flexible pathways promote opportunities for Vermont students to achieve post-secondary readiness through high-quality educational experiences that acknowledge individual goals, learning styles and abilities." (Agency of Education)
These experiences can include dual enrollment, community-based learning, work-based learning, early college, personalized learning opportunities and more.
Throughout the webinar, we discussed the different "key ingredients" that educators might consider not only in providing flexible pathways for students, but also how we might begin to prepare younger students for future flexible pathways opportunities.
Developing positive relationships with students, and creating the structures that grow those relationships, is a critical aspect of developing flexible pathways. Why? By knowing students, their aspirations, hopes, dreams and plans for the future, teachers can develop targeted opportunities for students.
School Based or Community Based?
Because of the opportunities presented by technology, flexible pathways that revolve around blended learning, flipped classrooms or online learning can extend the curriculum and provide students with personalized learning opportunities that are interest based. Khan Academy, work with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and student participation with online or web-based curriculum can provide vibrant and dynamic learning experiences for students.
Flexible pathways opportunities can also take place outside of the classroom including place-based learning, work based learning or educational partnerships with local organizations. Check out Montpelier High School's Flexible Pathways learning progression and the wide range of opportunities available to students.
Whatever your program, and however you implement flexible pathways, creating equitable learning opportunities accessible to all students is essential. Indeed, this can be a key determinant for choosing school-based or community-based learning opportunities. Whatever platform teachers choose, ALL students should have the opportunity to explore these educational experiences.
As teachers plan for flexible pathway experiences, it always helps to brainstorm or imagine the skills that students will need to succeed. This is particularly true for younger students. What transferable skills can we be integrating into instruction so that when given the opportunities, students will thrive. A sampling of these skills might include: digital citizenship, organization, time management, reflection and self-assessment.
Developing Community Partners
Identifying community partners can be a huge boost to teachers seeking to develop flexible pathways. A primary example is the Vermont Energy Education Program or VEEP. The program provides teachers with professional development and then will visit classrooms to teach students a variety of lessons about energy, conservation and sustainability. More importantly, by joining with community partners such as VEEP, teachers gain access to a network of partners and opportunities that can extend student learning.
Finally, it is critical that schools and teacher communicate flexible learning opportunities to students AND families. Without strong communications, the opportunities provided by flexible pathways can be missed by those not "in the loop". Creating effective communications structures can ensure that all students have access to these learning experiences and that the school, students and families can make the best decisions for student success.