Personalized Education, Empowered Teachers
Higher-Powered Learning is an initiative of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education. The Higher-Powered Learning team utilizes a blended-learning approach to personalize education for students and empower teachers with actionable data about student performance. This method combines technology and high-yield instructional practices to differentiate learning, ensuring each student receives an education that reflects their dignity as a unique child of God.
What is Blended Learning?
One of the most promising new initiatives in K–12 education is blended learning, a model of education in which students use adaptive, online software in classrooms to master material at levels that match their skills as teachers use the rich data from these programs to personalize their instruction and make targeted interventions. The “blend” in “blended learning” is the combination of the benefits of learning through adaptive software with the salient aspects of traditional schools to create an authentically new form of education.
What is Higher-Powered Learning?
Powered learning is “a form of learning in which students use adaptive software in a classroom setting to personalize their engagement with content, while teachers employ high-yield instructional practices and optimize their role by utilizing data from the software in regular and thoughtful ways to make targeted interventions” (Wills, 2015).
The approach of the Higher-Powered Learning Program is to give students the ability to work at their just-right reading and math levels while equipping teachers and leaders with actionable data in order to make targeted interventions and smart ability groupings. This empowerment, implemented in the context of a Catholic school, is what we call “Higher-Powered Learning.”
Though we have not replaced the term “blended learning” with “powered learning” in our own work or discourse, we think that the concept of “powered learning” emphasizes the critical features of the blended-learning programs we create and promote. In our schools, adaptive software programs are intended to empower teachers and students and to drive more personalized, higher-order learning than would occur otherwise.
Higher-Powered Learning Program
The Alliance for Catholic Education’s (ACE’s) Higher-Powered Learning Program is a three-year program guiding teachers and school leaders through the implementation of excellent and sustainable blended-learning programs. This cohort-based model includes three to five schools from a diocese (read more about how we select our schools) and each school creates a Blended Learning Advancement and Strategy Team (BLAST), comprised of the school leader(s) and three to four teachers, to lead the higher-powered learning initiative at their schools. BLAST members embark on a path that includes four to seven days of professional development each year as well as coaching calls, professional learning communities, and guided projects throughout the course of the program. This intensive professional development and support empowers the BLASTs to implement school-wide blended-learning programs by the end of the program.
Thanks to the generosity of the GHR Foundation and Bush Foundation, five schools from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis comprise the first cohort of the Higher-Powered Learning Program, which began in 2018.
The Higher-Powered Learning team supports the Notre Dame ACE Academies by providing professional development on blended and personalized learning, data-informed instruction, and using technology in the classroom. The team supports several blended-learning teachers in Holy Angels Catholic School, Central Catholic School, and St. Philip Neri Catholic School.
The Higher-Powered Learning Team
Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C., Ph.D.
The Higher-Powered Learning Program
The Alliance for Catholic Education’s (ACE’s) Higher-Powered Learning Program is a three-year program guiding teachers and school leaders through the implementation of excellent and sustainable blended-learning programs. Three to five schools from a diocese are selected to participate as a cohort and each school creates a Blended Learning Advancement and Strategy Team (BLAST), comprised of the school leader(s) and two to four teachers. The BLAST teams then lead the higher-powered learning initiative at their schools.
For BLAST members, the Higher-Powered Learning Program includes 4-7 days of professional development each year as well as coaching calls, professional learning communities, and guided projects throughout the course of the program. This intensive professional development and support empowers the BLASTs to implement blended learning school-wide by the conclusion of this three-year program.
What Makes the Higher-Powered Learning Program Unique?
This program is intentionally designed to develop the internal capacity at each school by empowering teachers and school leaders to make these significant changes while also ensuring that they receive appropriate ongoing support to successfully improve teaching and learning with technology.
We believe in the efficacy of this implementation model for three key reasons.
- A School-Level Nucleus: Unlike traditional professional development in which individual teachers attend programs or enact interventions alone, this program recognizes that a small core of individuals in any organization is necessary to reach a tipping point of change. The shared language and support that each team experiences will increase the probability of the intervention’s success. Developing a school’s internal capacity will allow it to sustain the blended learning initiatives at the conclusion of this program.
- Longitudinal Intervention: In contrast to typical one-off professional development sessions, this implementation model operates longitudinally over three years with multiple in-person and virtual touch points throughout the program, holding teachers accountable for their own growth and keeping them engaged in a supportive and mission-driven professional community of learning.
- Rigorous Evaluation: ACE is fortunate to be located within a top-tier academic university with more than 80 interdisciplinary faculty members contributing to the University’s Institute for Educational Initiatives. The Higher-Powered Learning team calls upon many of these faculty to contribute to research and evaluation in order to ensure that the program effectively serves students and teachers. ACE documents the impact of blended learning on students’ interest and achievement in the hopes of using these results as national proof points for blended learning and for this particular model of expansion.
Higher-Powered Learning Program: Twin Cities, Minnesota
- Ascension Catholic School
- Community of Saints Catholic School
- Nativity of Mary Catholic School
- St. Alphonsus Catholic School
- St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School