Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades

Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades A Guide for Classroom Teachers and School Leaders

Penny A. Bishop, John M. Downes, and Katy Farber
paper, 288 Pages
Pub. Date: May 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-317-8
Price: $34.00

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Pub. Date: May 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-319-2

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Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades shows how teachers in grades 5–8 can leverage the use of personalized learning plans (PLPs) to increase student agency and engagement, helping youth to establish learning goals aligned with their interests and assess their own learning—particularly around essential skills that cut across disciplines.


This book blends theory with practice, weaves what we know about young adolescents and best practices in middle grades, and gives specific, detailed descriptions of every aspect needed to implement personalized learning. Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades provides theory, tools, examples, and insights to develop an exemplary middle school. As a middle grades advocate, I love how this book details how we can meet the needs of young adolescents using this practice. — Nancy Ruppert, professor and chair, Department of Education, University of North Carolina, Asheville, and past president, Association for Middle Level Education

Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades is a must-have guide for anyone wishing to implement or improve personalized learning in the school or classroom. It is chock-full of vignettes, research-based rationales, and practical how-tos that give middle level educators a clear picture of personalized learning as well as the tools and strategies needed to create a student-centered culture that fosters academic learning and personal growth in the best way possible. — Patti Kinney, National Middle Level Principal of the Year, and past president, Association for Middle Level Education

Using vignettes from students, schools, and communities, the authors identify the purposes of PLPs [personalized learning plans] for students, teachers, families, community members, and other school stakeholders. — D. L. Stoloff, Choice

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About the Authors

Penny A. Bishop is Professor of Middle Level Education at the University of Vermont, where she conducts research on schooling for young adolescents and teaches future middle grades educators. She is co-author of several books and more than fifty articles on effective middle grades practice. Dr. Bishop has served as principal investigator on numerous grants, including as founding director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, bringing over $13 million dollars to Vermont schools to improve the learning and lives of middle grades students. A former middle school teacher, Dr. Bishop has served as chair of the American Educational Research Association’s special interest group on Middle Level Education Research; as chair of the Association for Middle Level Education’s Research Advisory Board; and as a Sir Ian Axford Public Policy Fellow to the New Zealand Ministry of Education, providing research on schooling policies for young adolescents in that country. She is the recipient of The John H. Lounsbury Award for Distinguished Achievement in Middle Level Education, the highest award given by the AMLE.

John M. Downes is director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont. Since joining UVM, Dr. Downes has led the development the Institute’s model of collaborative school change and teacher-directed professional development, which has now served middle grades faculties in more than sixty schools. He has led several grants and evaluations, published more than twenty articles and chapters, and delivered dozens of state and national presentations on topics including technology integration, young adolescents’ post-secondary aspirations, teachers and students partnering in school change and professional development, and their experiences as they shift to personalized learning environments. His fifteen years at the university builds upon ten years in a middle school helping its teachers and leaders design and implement more engaging learning for students with technology, curriculum integration, teaming, and collaborative teacher learning.

Katy Farber is professional development coordinator at the University of Vermont’s Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. She currently conducts research about adolescent education and partners with schools to help them personalize learning, engage students, and participate in action research. She is the author of three books about education: Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Can Stop the Exodus (Corwin Press, 2010); Change the World with Service Learning (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011); Real and Relevant: A Guide to Service and Project- Based Learning, 2nd edition (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017); and several chapters and articles. Recent publications can be found in Current Issues in Middle Level Education; Exploring the Impact of the Dissertation in Practice; and The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education. Dr. Farber was a classroom teacher for seventeen years and regularly presents at state and national conferences.

Table of Contents


Blog Post: "Delivering on the Promise of Personalized Learning Plans"

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