Located in the Texas Panhandle between Lubbock and Amarillo, Tulia Independent School District serves roughly 1,100 students from a small farm and ranch community. In 2015, as members of the district leadership team recognized literacy and academic motivation challenges across schools, they sought to redesign learning in the district from one-size-fits-all instruction toward student-centered, personalized learning. In addition to targeting English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) performance, the pilot is designed to support the development of student agency through a balance of online content and face-to-face activities that provide students opportunities to work at their own pace, bring transparency to learning goals, and develop positive, productive relationships with peers and adults.
“We see kids growing, and we see teachers growing, so we know blended learning is the right thing to do. Our data proves that it’s the right thing. I can see a real difference in the kids this year. They’re excited to share their growth. They have their own set of goals and expectations.” – Pam White-Miner, Principal at Highland Elementary School
The Tulia team designed their pilot program to address low literacy performance, high levels of student disengagement, and low indicators of college readiness across the district. Prior to the Raising Blended Learners pilot, Tulia students were entering classrooms with a variety of needs and receiving a generalized, standardized education that failed to meet them where they were and take them where they needed to go. The Tulia team recognized students come to them with unique desires and passions and are met with content and practices that often miss the opportunity to help them see themselves in the curriculum or result in feedback that is not specific, actionable, or transparent. In response, Tulia designed a pilot to increase personalized instruction and rigor, while also providing students with opportunities for increased engagement, motivation, and ownership over their academic progress.
Guided by the Tulia ISD Personalized Learning Design Pillars, Tulia launched a blended learning pilot in their high school ELA classrooms, beginning with components of the station rotation and flipped models and over time including aspects of the individual rotation model as they increased the opportunities for student flexibility in both the pace and path of their learning.
In year two, the team launched pilots at all four of the district’s campuses. This included the implementation of station rotation and individual rotation models in three, 6-8th grade ELA classrooms at Tulia Junior High, one 3rd grade ELA teacher at Swinburn Elementary, and a campus-wide pilot at the Highland Elementary campus. Each program centers on fostering increases in student progress ownership, transparency in learning, and student agency though data-driven learning practices.
Pilot classrooms are generally organized around instructional playlists and personalized learning pathways. Learning modalities include individual and collaborative activities, self-directed work through online programs, reviews of flipped lessons, individual study, and direct instruction. Over time, teachers have also introduced opportunities for students to track their own learning data and, in many cases, make decisions on the pace and/or path of their learning.
Learner Driven Instruction
Transparency in Learning
Design pillars are used among all Raising Blended Learners sites to identify the essential design elements upon which each site’s student experience is based. The Tulia ISD Student Experience Design Pillars are Learner-Driven Instruction, Transparency in Learning, Student Agency, and Positive Adult Relationships (focused on academics).
Learner-Driven Instruction Learner Driven Instruction is a precise and systematic approach to improving student learning throughout the year. The cycle of LDI includes assessment, analysis, and action for the success of each student.
Transparency in Learning refers to the intentional access to and support in analyzing student learning data for teachers, students, administrators, and parents. Students gain understanding of how their long-term goals are connected to their daily work and decision making. They also gain progress ownership, and begin seeing themselves in the curriculum.
Student Agency refers to the level of control, autonomy, and power that a student experiences in an educational situation. Student agency can manifest in the choice of learning environment, approach, and/or pace. Teachers design lessons for students to see meaning in their learning experiences.
Positive Adult Relationships (focused on academics) refers to the opportunity for students to develop a positive, collaborative relationship with their teacher and other adults/mentors, focused on high expectations for academic and personal growth. Teachers curate experiences with both their future and current interests in mind.
Positive Adult Relationships