A five-step approach to effective individual learning plans
Individual learning plans (ILPs) help students better understand and take responsibility for their learning, but how can you make ILPs work for your students?
Monika Solvig, a teacher at Hop Secondary School in Norway, has used individual learning plans with great success over the past four years. According to Monika, the key word in individual learning plans is reflection – and her five-step approach to ILPs using her school’s virtual learning environment to give student a central role.
#1 The student sets the goal
The student bases her goals on the curriculum, or she can set goals within the areas of social skills, learning skills, practical skills or physical achievements. When she’s decided on her goals, she adds them to her ILP in the learning environment.
#2 The student plans how to achieve the goals
The student establishes a realistic and concrete plan for achieving each goal. She follows up on the plan regularly, and gives status updates in the learning environment.
#3 Commenting and reflection
The teacher – and the student’s parents if they desire – can go into the student’s learning plan regularly to check on progress. They can also add comments or questions on each goal to encourage reflection from the student.
#4 Documenting success
When the student reaches a goal, she documents her success in her work portfolio, reflecting on how she achieved success and what she has learnt from the process. Again, the teacher and parents can add comments or questions.
5# Regular follow-up
As well as checking the status in the ILP every now and again, the teacher should also schedule an ILP conversation with the student and her parents every semester. Ideally, the student should lead this meeting, demonstrating her achievements, showing her work and laying out her goals for the next semester.
See examples of the ILP in action
Do ILPs work?
“It’s actually very difficult to document the effect of ILPS,” says Monika. “But general research shows that reflection on your own learning works – and ILPs help with this process. Perhaps our best evidence comes from parents whose children have moved onto upper secondary school. They can see how useful the reflective skills developed through ILPs are when their children have to take more responsibility for their education. ”
This view is supported by the work of John Hattie, a professor at Auckland University in New Zealand, who conducted a 15-year study merging results from 50,000 previous studies and a total of 83 million students. Hattie used the data to rank 138 aspects of schooling and found that student-teacher interaction at schools came out on top. The most important factor was "self-reporting", which Hattie defines as the student’s understanding of what she doing, and her ability to explain this, as well as any gaps in her understanding, to her teacher.