Learning can be most powerful when it is driven by the learner.  The personal growth that is experienced through self-directed learning expands confidence, skills, and executive functioning capacities.  At FWSU our high school students explore learner-driven learning both within and outside of our classrooms, with many seeking additional experiential environments called flexible pathways.  

Flexible pathways represent one of the three pillars of personalized learning in a proficiency-based system.  The additional pillars include personalized learning plans and proficiency-based instruction, learning, and assessment.  When an educational system capitalizes on the three pillars of personalized learning, their graduates grow and excel in a variety of different ways.  The Vermont Portrait of a Graduate highlights the outcomes we strive for our students as we encourage them to engage with and direct their learning.

At BFA high school, there are a variety of flexible learning opportunities available to students.  These include work-based learning, Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative (VTVLC), Pre-Tech, Northwestern Career and Technical Center (CTC), Online Learning, Early College at CCV, UVM, VTC, and NVU, Dual Enrollment, Fast Forward, Center for Technology, Essex (CTE), Burlington Technical Center (BTC), and Advanced Placement (AP) course work.  

This year we have 137 students across grades 9-12 participating in flexible pathways, with many participating in more than one pathway as they braid together programs of study that support their goals for both learning and new experiences.  

Flexible pathways and personalized learning rely very much on a system where student voice and agency are valued.  What better way to explore the student experience of flexible pathways than through the voices of some of our students? 

“I go to BTC’s introduction to healthcare. I love the ability to work hands-on in the classroom. In this program you get your LNA license and it’s a great way to give back to the community and set yourself up for the future.”

Kamryn Taylor, class of 2022

“I am studying AP Calculus BC with Wyeth Haddock. Our experience is unique because we are taking this class entirely with the resources from AP Classroom. We do our learning in the AP Calculus AB class so that, if needed, we can refresh on last year’s learning in preparation for this year’s exam. Though it has been difficult working entirely online and without a teacher who has taught this class to ask questions to, it has made me more resourceful in using both the materials supplied to me and Wyeth to work things out.” 

Emmaleigh Sturm, class of 2022

“I attend CCV to study English Composition with my professor Richard Isenberg.  In my English Composition course through the Community College of Vermont, I learn many new skills and tips about the English language and write many essays to apply the things I am learning. I am grateful for Dual Enrollment because I am able to prepare myself for what college courses will be like for when I eventually go to college in my future.”

Ella Drury, class of 2023
Flexible Pathways Project at Vermont Technical Center

“Computer Animation and Web Design at CTE is one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had! We get to create art in multiple programs on our computers all day long! Honestly, it feels more like a studio than a class.”

Schuyler DeCell, class of 2023

“I am studying Computer Web Design at CCV as a dual enrollment course.  It is surprisingly easy considering its college courses. We don’t even have to do any extra work since our curriculum is exactly the same, we just get the credit!”

Schuyler DeCell, class of 2023

“I attend NVU-Johnson where I am studying Music Education and Small Business Management.  I do some of my classes online, but I also have a few classes in person and it has been an amazing experience. It is very nice, especially when you are enrolled in your college of choice to get your feet wet with the feel of college and meet people that you will be going to school with. I loved this experience and I recommend it to anyone who is thinking about it.”

Andrea Sanders, class of 2022

“I am studying Astronomy.  Through this course, and the American Sign Language (ASL) course I took last summer, I have been able to work on my time management skills, and develop a stronger sense of ownership over my own education.” 

Peyton Metruk, class of 2024

“I am taking AP US History and AP Literature and Composition this year, and last year I took AP Language and Composition and AP Calculus AB. I really appreciate having the opportunity to take AP courses at our school because the classes are challenging and help me improve skills I don’t usually need in regular classes. I feel like the AP classes I have taken have met my current needs as a learner, and they definitely have prepared me for college and beyond.”

Madeline King, class of 2022

“I’m currently studying AP U.S History in the classroom, and AP Statistics and AP Calculus BC independently (during the school day).  I’ve always sought out challenges, and have felt that through AP courses, I have the unique opportunity to do college-level learning. Over the past year, I’ve had the unique opportunity to independently study AP courses, meaning that a lot of the learning is done at my own pace, without guidance from a teacher–a difficult yet rewarding way to learn.”

Wyeth Haddock, class of 2022

“I attend the Burlington Technical Center for the Health Science Academy. I really enjoy being able to spend time in groups and collaborating with other people from different schools. We get to do fun dissection labs, shadowing at the UVM medical center and many more things. It was the best decision I have made in high school.”

Alexandria Klimas, class of 2023

We are so proud of every achievement of all our students!  Learning is a life-long endeavor, and when we learn how to learn, we can become the drivers of our own learning and future. 

Danielle Drogalis is the Data Manager & Assessment Coordinator at Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a new contributor to the FWSU Story. You can follow her on Twitter @DroVTEd 

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