The Evolving Roles of Teachers and Learners

Welcome to EDU 507 The Evolving Roles of Teachers and Learners online class! My name is Lennie Symes, your instructor. I am currently a consultant working with schools to create personalized/customized environments. I previously worked with Technology & Innovation in Education for 15 years, the last few years particularly working as a co-creator for a comprehensive customized learning project. We received a Bush Foundation Grant to implement our program to help 19 schools across South Dakota achieve expanding levels of customized learning, as well as schools in a variety of states.  I do look forward to working with you in this program!


I prefer email as my main form of communication, but if necessary you can text message me at 6058632481. We can also arrange a web-based meeting or phone call.

 Course Description

This course provides insight into how teachers’ and learners’ roles change as classrooms evolve in personalized environments. In this course, educators will explore the growing significance of developing learner agency and self-regulation for student success. Participants will examine the increasing need for collaboration among educators-with-learners, educators-with-educators, and learners-with-learners. Participants will also analyze their own classroom approaches and their school’s approaches to motivating students. This includes exploring research on the impact of grading practices on student motivation, and developing goals/strategies to shift from problematic external motivational approaches to teaching and learning with intrinsic motivation.


Credit Hour Policy Statement

Diverse Modality Course

The course is delivered through distance, online, or a hybrid combination.  Certified distance-learning faculty identify the amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes of the course and verify student achievement of the learning outcomes. Student engagement may include seated or online seminars or small-group video meetings, independent work, threaded discussions, and meeting with faculty in lieu of specified class time. USF covid-related materials can be found at:

 Course Objectives

Participants will

  • examine the importance of implementing learner agency and growth mindset in a customized environment
  • implement activities and resources for explicitly teaching learner agency skills
  • explore current and outdated motivation practices and techniques for enhancing intrinsic motivation
  • examine structures and teaching strategies for improving learning
  • explore aspects of developing active and passive leadership capabilities of learners in a student-led classroom
  • investigate ways to implement choice and pace into classroom instruction
  • develop an understanding of ever-increasing collaboration with educators and learners
  • examine models of restructuring standards for more flexible delivery and monitoring of student progress
  • review common grading practices that inhibit customized environments
  • explore mastery- or competency-based assessment practices

Course Structure

While there are some constraints with university systems, this course was developed with a self-paced orientation. There are 3 main units or themes, and each theme utilizes one of the 3 books required for the course woven with other materials. Each unit page provides Activities that describe readings or videos and occasionally an explanation of a concept. The unit page also describes the Assignments. While not all activities are specifically tied to an assignment, it is important to do all the activities, particularly for the final. Self-paced courses are wonderful for flexibility, but require self-discipline and growth mindset–truly, in a self-paced class, you only get out of it what you put into the class.

Each unit has activities that include book readings, articles, and/or videos.There is a significant amount of reading, but I try to give you cues where to skim and where to read closely.

Teacher Pace Schedule 6/1 – 8/15

  • June 7 Complete activities for live session intro
  • June 7 – Live Session (Intro) Monday 7:00 CDT (6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT)
  • June 21 finish Unit 1 activities and assignments
  • June 21  Complete activities for live session 1
  • June 21 – Live Session 1 Monday 7:00 CDT (6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT)
  • July 12 finish Unit 2 activities and assignments
  • July 12 Complete activities for live session 3
  • July 12 – Live Session 2 Monday 7:00 CDT (6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT)
  • Aug 2 Complete activities for live session 3
  • Aug 2 finish Unit 3 activities and assignments
  • Aug 2 – Live Session 3 Monday 7:00 CDT (6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT)
  • Aug 7 – Finish final

Avoid skimming the materials and writing rambling opinions about the topics. I recommend you focus on pulling important insights from the readings/authors, how they influence your thinking in new ways, and finally, your reflection on changing instructional practice. No doubt you are probably already making some efforts to personlize in your classrooms. I would encourage you to approach this course focusing less on what you are currently doing, but rather focus on what you intend to do differently next year and beyond. View this as an exercise in growth and change, not how you are customizing currently: for some of you the changes may be dramatic, for others less so, but keep the focus on new practices for personalizing.

Much of this course will be done independently (asynchronous), as opposed to many online classes that depend heavily on discussion boards. There are four times we connect as a group (synchronous), e.g. the live online discussion.

Most assignments can be submitted as an MS Office document, Office 365 shared document, PDF, or shared Google Drive document (if you have other formats, contact me to see if I have what is needed to access them).


I wish we had the time to read all the books! I have set up three groupings of books with options for you to choose. If you have no preference, choose the first book in each category. These are the books required for this class:

Required Book 1 Alternatives (Choose one of the five):

[Instruction-Oriented Books]

 Learn Like a Pirate  by Paul Solarz ISBN:9780988217669 Dave Burgess Consulting
Teaching Kids to Thrive: Essential Skills for Success by Debbie Thompson, Dedra A. Stafford  Silver  ISBN:9781506381589

Collective Student Efficacy Developing Independent and Inter-Dependent Learners by John Hattie, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Shirley Clarke ISBN: 978-1-5443-8344-6

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller ISBN: 9780470623428 Wiley


[Systemic / Big-Picture Books]

Breaking With Tradition: The Shift to Competency-Based Learning in PLCs at Work by Brian M. Stack and Jonathan G. Vander Els ISBN:9781943874064


Five Levers to Improve Learning: How to Prioritize for Powerful Results in Your School by Tony FrontierJames Rickabaugh ISBN:9781416617631

Required Book 2 Alternatives (Choose one of the four):

Grading for Equity What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms by Joe Feldman ISBN: 9781506391595 SAGE Publications


How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, by Susan M. Brookhart ISBN:9781416623090 ASCD


Assessing with Respect by Starr Sackstein ISBN:9781416629993 (pdf)  ASCD


Flash Feedback: Responding to Student Writing Better and Faster – Without Burning Out by Matthew Johnson ISBN:9781071803134 Corwin


Grading from the Inside Out  by Tom Schimmer 9781936763863 Solution Tree Press

Required Book 3 Alternatatives (Choose one of the three):

Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education by Glenn Whitman, Ian Kelleher ISBN:9781475825367


Five Teaching and Learning Myths—Debunked: A Guide for Teachers Adam M. Brown and Althea Need Kaminske ISBN: 9781351368148


Understanding How We Learn A Visual Guide by Yana Weinstein, Megan Sumeracki, Oliver Caviglioli ISBN: 9781351358040


Optional Readings:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink ISBN:9781101524381

Self-Determination Theory Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness Richard M. Ryan Edward L. Deci Epub Edition ISBN: 9781462528783; Kindle Edition ISBN: 9781462528790 Copyright © 2017

Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning: A Roadmap for School Leaders by James Rickabaugh ISBN:9781416621591

Self-regulation in the classroom : helping students learn how to learn by Richard M. Cash ISBN:9781631980848

Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success by Arthur L. Costa Bena Kallick  ISBN:9781416608325

Most of these are available in TIEReads professional library (if your district is a TIE Member), but you may want to consider having your own copy so you have access at any time you need.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Each unit page lists the assignments for the respective unit. As facilitator, I will use the Feedback LAgency spreadsheet to help with scoring your assignments (posted alongside the syllabus). The scoring breaks out as follows:

Final Evaluation

90%-100%      A

80%-89%        B

70%-79%        C

60%-69%        D

Learning Accessibility Services

COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact Learning Accessibility Services at (605) 331-6740 or  Accommodations can only be arranged through this office, which is located in the Academic Success Center (McDonald Center)