IOAPA: Developing a Learning Plan

Students and teachers often find that getting organized is a top priority as classes begin, and amidst the flurry of new notebooks and color-coding, it can be easy to forget why all this activity is necessary. This may be especially true for students in Iowa Online AP Academy classes, as the rigorous nature of the coursework often dictates that students jump in to learning immediately. However, when embarking on courses covering new topics and materials, it can be nice to think about overall objectives and goals for the class that go beyond a final course grade. For many students (and their mentors), a learning plan can be a way to formally develop these goals.

What is a learning plan?

Often, learning plans are included in course syllabi to inform students of the overall goals and expectations of topics to be covered during the course. Learning plans allow instructors to actively define their hopes for the course, and for students to gain awareness of what knowledge the instructor hopes to pass on. It is important to note that grades are not often part of a learning plan. Although many students, especially those considering college, may be used to focusing on obtaining a particular grade, it is important to remember that learning plans focus on goals rather than outcomes. Because learning plans established by instructors can be broad and sometimes vague, students may find it helpful to use established course objectives as a starting point for developing their own, more specific hopes for what they wish to take away from the class.

What might students include?

The development of an individualized learning plan for an IOAPA class can help students better define what they hope to obtain by taking the course. For students, this can be a good examination of their learning styles, interests and how taking an IOAPA class contributes to their future plans. Although goals may vary widely, students may choose to focus on delving deeper into areas of interest through course assignments, setting goals for time management, areas of challenge in the past or other goals that will help them make the most of their course. Other students may find developing goals using the SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Limited) strategy may be of use to them.

How can learning plans help IOAPA students?

Setting individualized learning plans can aid students in verbalizing what they hope to achieve through their challenging coursework. In addition, by establishing goals for the course, students and mentors can collaborate on the best way to keep students on track, and develop means of accountability for success in their IOAPA classes. At some schools, use of personalized learning plans might also be used when assigning grades at the conclusion of the course. Finally, the move from personal goals and away from obtaining a letter grade can be a helpful mentality shift for many students, especially those who are already high achieving.

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