Engaging Learners 

by Giving Them a Voice

The Marysville School District serves 5,000 students in suburban Ohio. After achieving compelling results by adopting Ecollect for enrollment and individualized learning plans for two years, District Personalized Learning 

Coordinators Heather MacLaughlin and Ashley Robinson Thompson decided to transition the Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs) they were using for every student from their previous structure into Ecollect.   

Robinson Thompson and MacLaughlin knew that PLPs, which allow students to participate actively in their own learning, were a valuable tool for gaining insights into the learning perceptions of students and better linking stakeholder groups. But implementing them was "like a patchwork quilt," says Robinson Thompson. "It was all over the place. Some teachers used Google forms, others used an archaic 3-hole-punch data binder, but the binders would sit on a shelf. It wasn't a sustainable process. We needed something that would live on with the student from grade to grade." 


"We have an uptick in our achievement data over the past three years."


Robinson Thompson, who is also the principal of one of Marysville's schools, had the idea in the summer of 2017 to utilize Ecollect for PLPs. "I thought: If we can register kids in this user-friendly ecosystem, why can't we learn about our kids this way?" she says. They formed a team, which includes District PowerSchool Manager Rich Bernadella, and worked with Ecollect to create a system that they've continued to modify over the past two years. 

"We created categories as a way for students in K-12 to answer questions that allowed us to learn about them as people — categories like interests, passions, and talents," MacLaughlin explains. "We used a radio button mechanism because we have kids who haven't learned to spell words yet. We were able to make it data-friendly and easy and not use much instructional time on it. We also have some open text boxes for kids to add things they're interested in that aren't already a button." 

The team also created a section for learning styles and “habits of mind,” that allow the students to share their insights and preferences, such as whether they like working independently or in a group, or whether they think they're auditory or visual learners. 

For the habits of mind section, the kids have the opportunity to reflect on wider-world dispositions, like perseverance, resilience, collaboration, teamwork, and organization. "Kids can say, I think I'm really good at XYZ. But I struggle with ABC. That information is good for teachers as they're creating instruction down the line," MacLaughlin says. 

The district makes sure every student fills out their PLP during the first few weeks of school, with ongoing checkpoints throughout the year.


Students at Marysville

"Learners who wouldn't normally be the type to advocate for themselves or speak up are able to now because we gave them more of a voice." 


The intention of these PLPs, Robinson Thompson and MacLaughlin say, was to help students craft engaging instructional experiences for themselves. "Engagement promotes achievement," MacLaughlin points out, and Marysville's experience with PLPs is an example of that: "We have an uptick in our achievement data over the past three years," MacLaughlin says. She points to reading and math improvement in the younger grades as being particularly notable. 

The Marysville team also loves how Ecollect data can be translated into data visualization programs to create profiles of students and student groups and to show progress and other metrics. And the data follows the student as they progress through school, giving valuable insights about their interests and learning styles to each new teacher they encounter. "It's creating a history of the student that isn't just grades and classes," Robinson Thompson says.

"Learners who wouldn't normally be the type to advocate for themselves or speak up are able to now because we gave them more of a voice." 


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