Friday, May 13, 2011

Improving Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) | Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”


Many schools offer student developed personalized learning plans (PLPs) in the hopes that it help engage the student in the learning process and encourage them to set personal performance goals. This is an analysis of the implementation of PLPs of Reach for the Stars Academy (names have been changed) and suggestions for possible improvements.

Reach for the Stars Academy (RSA) currently utilizes a paper document where teachers are responsible for recording student FCAT scores, benchmark testing scores, and progress and report card grades. With each new grading period, students receive their PLP review their grades and choose the two lowest scores to write an improvement goal. Improvement goals must be specific. For example a poorly written goal would be, ‘I will study harder.’ A better way to state the goal would be, ‘I will go to tutoring twice a month and turn in all assignments in on time.’ RSA wanted the PLP process to motivate their students to take action and get involved in their education. However, the project has not been a success. Many students and teachers see the PLPs as a waste of time, nothing but a meaningless piece of paper. The current PLP document does not meet the original purpose / objectives of the project.

Design Flaws

  • Teachers are required to store the PLPs with their gradebooks and lesson plans. Students only see the PLP with recorded goals twice a quarter at progress and report card time.
  • Students choose their PLP goals while in the homeroom class and that teacher may not be aware of why grades are low in another class. The teacher may not be able to help the student write an effective goal without this information.
  • The current format requires all students to write an improvement goal for their two lowest averages. Students with high averages have difficulty writing goals.
  • There is not a place in the document where students can reflect on their progress or lack thereof.
  • The document is not attractive to students, there is little room to write, and students become confused with where to write information with the current format.
Possible Solutions

Paper Document Ideas
Students should keep their PLP in their agenda where it is always handy; this way students are able to check their current grades against their goal frequently. Goals should be chosen for all subject areas and not just the two lowest encouraging them to reflect on all scores. Students should choose their goals with the teacher of the subject to be sure each improvement goal was chosen well. Students with high grades will explain how they intend to maintain their current average instead of writing improvement goals.
The document needs to be reformatted to look attractive to students and be more specific in where to write information. More space for writing needs to be provided and a reflection section needs to be added.

To encourage students to check their PLPs often a reward should be offered once students have achieved their goals. Students could receive a certificate of achievement to take home or display on a school bulletin board or a ticket for a special treat at lunch.

Digital Document Ideas

Digital PLPs would contain the same information as the paper document but the format would be altered to fit the media. 


  1. Hi Nanett,

    The concept of using Personalized Learning Plans offers both students and instuctors a great opportunity to enhance learning, but I think the original design of the form was the major shortcoming for several reasons. First having students only reflecting on the classes they are doing poorly in does not do much to bolster the student's self esteem, so the adjustment to have the students write about all their classes is great. Another suggestion to make the plan digital will provide a more interactive experience for the students and should make it more engaging. Depending how the digital form is developed, instructors could add content specific for each students learning styles and addressing their goals, as well as provide the rewards you mentioned. If the plans are accessible online the students can review them any time. Investing more time in researching a better design for the plan such as the revisions you suggested may have made this more appealing to both students and teachers from the start.


  2. Hi Nanette,
    School sure is getting complicated. I like the idea of setting their educational performance goals. We do it at work. You are right though, what good is the PLP if the student doesn't have it always handy. Having it accessible to them at all times should give them something to strive for especially if there is a reward at the end.

    I also agree with you that goals should be chosen for all subject areas and not just the two lowest Focusing on the two lowest is placing too much emphasis in the wrong place. You also wrote "Students should choose their goals with the teacher of the subject to be sure each improvement goal was chosen well. Students with high grades will explain how they intend to maintain their current average instead of writing improvement goals." These are all wonderful ideas and I hope they get implemented. There is too much of a focus on failure in school and not on the successes. Having the students play an active roll in the PLP, will help them understand that their education is their responsibility.

  3. Hi Nanett,

    Although I do not work in k-12, I do see how this can be beneficial to the students and I would agree that a few changes need to be made for it to be more successful. Has there been any talk about making it digital and online for both the students to have access to but also would allow the parents to get involved with the students goals. Who is the PM for this project? Do they allow feedback or input from the staff? I wonder if they went through an evaluation of the PLP program or a post-mortem, I am sure if they did then they might find some of the same things that you found which would allow for them to improve the personalized learning plans.