Individualized Learning Plans: Not Just for Learners
An Individualized Learning Plan, or ILP, is both a document and a process. It is what learners use – with support from school facilitators, staff and families – to define and work toward their learning and career goals. And while learners and families are very familiar with the ILP process, they may not be aware that Maker Learning Network and iLEAD facilitators, leaders and staff go through a very similar process. Annually, all staff members revisit their ILPs with their supervisors and set learning goals for the next year.
This process corresponds with project-based learning (PBL), according to iLEAD Director of Maker Outreach Matt Watson. He said that just as with PBL, it is about individualized growth and reflecting on learning.
“Our learners complete ILPs, and we do as well. It’s true project-based learning. It’s our authentic, real-life work,” Watson said. “Learners may need more guidance, but all of us benefit from identifying our areas of growth and setting goals to meet those.”
In addition, both learners and staff prepare a year-end Showcase of Learning, where they present to their peers a reflection on their goals and growth.
According to Watson, the staff do this both to model learning and to grow as lifelong learners themselves.
“We believe in this,” Watson said. “Metacognition – thinking about what we do and learn – is the higher-level thinking necessary to truly grow.”
Watson recalled his first meeting with iLEAD California Founder and CEO Dawn Evenson. He said Evenson asked him how he and his team could be more successful.
“I was allowed to contribute, and it hooked me,” Watson said. “I had a voice and was part of the team, not part of the system.”
Just as with PBL, Watson said some choose to have more guidance in the ILPs while some take on more autonomy about what their goals could be.
“You can dream as big as you like,” Watson said. “And then you need to figure out how to facilitate that.”
Across the network, facilitators agree that ILPs are essential to their success.
iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi) Spanish facilitator Erika Cedeño said she sees this process as a technique that leads one to challenge oneself. She likes to think of her ILP as her professional bucket list that makes critical thinking about what she wants to achieve easier and more tangible.
“It’s important for people to write down their goals and be truthful about what they need to do,” Cedeño said. “Reflecting on how you have progressed during the year helps you envision what you want to achieve.”
Cedeño said she looks forward to revisiting her ILP each year. She said she enjoys seeing her progress and getting invaluable feedback from her mentors.
“This is as important as learners getting assessed and receiving feedback about their work and progress,” Cedeño said. “I believe every workplace should have this process because it makes the company more reflective and human, sharing their challenges and dreams.”
SCVi science facilitator Ingrid Moon agrees that the ILP process is important to her professional development.
“As a goal-oriented person, I like having the opportunity to set my own goals and then evaluate my progress,” Moon said. “Essentially, it’s a performance review of myself.”
Setting goals and self-assessing connect to PBL and deeper learning, according to Moon.
“This is a better way for all learners, young and old, to reflect and track their progress,” Moon said. “These are not arbitrary but, rather, meaningful outcomes that can be tracked.”
Evenson emphasizes that ILPs are an integral part of iLEAD’s Reflective Supervision model, which personalizes the evaluation process. She said that it allows each staff member to set goals for themselves that are relevant, which motivates them to learn and grow in the areas that they feel are most important.
“ILPs are always a collaborative effort,” Evenson added. “Each staff member has a thought partner to help them work toward their goals and to have accountability.”