MAPLE District Learning Tours: Uncovering Personalized Learning

Grade 9 Science Class, “Bacteria Lab” – Students were assigned groups of 2-3 people where they chose a focus questions, reviewed procedure and collected samples.


One of the best ways to understand personalized learning is to see it in action. Every month of the school year, the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech (MAPLE) Consortium organizes a district learning tour where educators from all of the state come to observe how different classrooms are tailoring their instructional environment to address the individual needs, skills, and interests of each student. Districts across the Commonwealth work tirelessly to provide an educational experience that is meaningful and engaging for each student. MAPLE showcases these efforts and brings school leaders together to learn from each other and share what practices work and don’t work on their journey to personalized learning.


Observation Tool

Each MAPLE Learning Tour is designed for attendees to learn about the district’s personalized learning vision, observe different innovative teaching models in the classroom, and hear from the staff about how they are making it all happen. MAPLE developed a observation tool to guide these tours that orient attendees to their definition of personalized learning which emcompasses the following six elements:

  • Personal Connections: Supporting deep personal connections between students, teachers and other adults
  • Personal Learning Pathways: Motivating students to reach their goals and allowing them to take ownership of their learning
  • Competency-Based Progression: Working within a framework of curriculum standards and high expectation
  • Learner Profiles: Allowing teachers to gain detailed and timely knowledge of students and to use data to guide instruction
  • Flexible Learning Environments: Maintaining high flexibility in the what, when, how, and where of learning
  • Technology: Allowing all of the above to be implemented effectively, affordably, and at scale

Recent Learning Tours: North Reading and Arlington Public Schools

This past April, MAPLE hosted tours in North Reading Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools. Both districts are considered by MAPLE to be trailblazers for personalized learning in Massachusetts and have heavily prioritized personalized learning in their district wide strategic plans. North Reading hosted a tour of its Middle School and High School to provide a deeper understanding of how technology is being used to support student-centered learning experiences. Arlington’s tour was at their sixth grade only Gibbs School that is designed to develop students’ skills to engage in project based learning.

North Reading Public Schools

North Reading’s Middle and High School are connected in one impressive building on a hill surrounded by green fields and tennis courts. This vast campus was built in 2015 with innovation as a priority. Most classrooms are tech enabled, however, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Daly emphasized that the building is designed to support instruction, not the other way around. This tour represents North Reading’s personalized learning journey through the district’s move towards data-driven instruction, digital learning classroom integration, and 1:1 classroom instruction. Learn more about the tour of North Reading Public Schools.

Arlington Public Schools

Gibbs’ programming incorporates teaching strategies such as interactive modeling and learning structures that aim to develop executive functioning skills and promote social emotional learning. Principal Kristin DeFrancisco emphasizes the importance of collaboration in making project-based learning possible. The Gibbs faculty work together throughout the curriculum design process and focus on the key values of academic rigor, project-based learning, and creativity. DeFrancisco believes the design process is the foundation to the Gibbs’ growth mindset and learning culture. Learn more about the tour of the Gibbs School.

Lessons Learned

In both districts, visitors observed a range of classrooms that ranged from highly innovative to more traditional. Common practices across all schools are individual and group work as well as student choice and voice that helps students take ownership of their work. By the end of the Learning Tours, attendees had questions that revolved around professional development, concerns around common core/statewide testing, and assessment/measurement. As educators implement new technologies and innovative strategies into their practice, Learning Tours provide important points of reference and a knowledge base that are useful for any district.

MAPLE Learning Tours are resuming in the fall. For more information about the MAPLE Consortium and its offerings, click here.