Marshall County teachers train in personalized learning curriculum

Teachers from throughout the region participate in a personalized learning training session Tuesday, Aug. 1, at the Kenneth Shadowen Performing Arts Center in Draffenville. The Marshall County School District began introducing a personalized learning based curriculum about three years ago.

Like most other districts around the state in August, Marshall County teachers have been hard at work gearing up for the new school year, which is set to begin for students on Aug. 10.

However, unlike most other districts, Marshall County Schools has recently taken a different approach to education by incorporating innovative, student-driven and personalized teaching initiatives throughout the district.

For Marshall County teachers, preparing for the new school year involved a training on Tuesday, Aug. 1, with representatives from the University of Kentucky’s Next Generation Academy, a leadership initiative that fosters innovative teaching practices, student-centered education and college and career readiness geared toward today’s competitive job market. This is Marshall County’s third year with Next Generation.

Dr. Justin Bathon, a University of Kentucky professor and Next Generation representative, encouraged teachers to think about the legacy they would leave behind for the next generation of students and educators.

Other speakers included Dr. Buddy Berry, superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence and the superintendents of nearby Trigg County and Paducah Independent Schools, Travis Hamby and Donald Shively. All three agreed that education needs to adapt to the changing world and work toward bettering students.

“It is a moral imperative,” Hamby said.

The new educational approach diverges from the traditional in many ways. Students are encouraged to tackle real-world problems using multiple disciplines, and to structure projects around things that they enjoy or with which they take an interest. Students are also encouraged to be active participants in their learning; in many cases, they will be able to have a voice in what projects or assignments they wish to tackle. By personalizing learning in this way, the district hopes to encourage students to be engaged and productive in class.

The ultimate goal of the program is to give Marshall County graduates a leg up over their peers across the state when it comes to college and career readiness.

An ACT 2016 National Curriculum Survey found that supervisors in the workforce largely value nonacademic skills in their employees — such as integrity, cooperation and reliability — over measures of academic achievement. In a ranking of skills, employers were found to value traits such as conscientiousness and problem solving over content knowledge.

Marshall County’s new initiative seeks to focus on honing these intangible skills: skills such as effective communication, both written and verbal; creativity and curiosity in thinking, which includes learning from failure; collaboration with peers and the ability to problem solve with a team; and other character traits, such as responsibility, persistence, confidence and empathy.

Content knowledge remains an integral part of the curriculum, but technology has made memorizing information obsolete. In this new educational model, content knowledge will be just one part of what children take away from school.

It seeks to educate the whole child, not only prepare them for a test.

“It’s been extremely positive… We’re seeing those students that get lost — that fall between the cracks — actually outshining their peers,” said Katee Adams, a teacher in the Discovery model at Sharpe Elementary.

“To hear (the students) be able to explain with authority and confidence what they are learning, you get fueled by that,” said Shannon Hamlet, another Discovery teacher.

During the training, teachers spent the day in sessions that revealed the many possibilities of the new system, from presenting student work to effectively utilizing technology. They also brainstormed goals for the upcoming school year with their colleagues and presented those goals in a gallery walk — much like many of their students in the coming months will be encouraged to do.

For more information about Marshall County’s new education initiative, visit the district webpage and select the “Deeper Learning” tab.