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Learning Plans: A Conceptual Framework



This article describes the some of the technical aspects of learning plans using more friendly analogies. The purpose is to give users a solid model of how learning plan assignments work, so you do not unwittingly run into problems down the road.





Paradigms: Frames and Backpacks

From Paradigm to Practice

From Practice to Best Practices



Definitions: Templates, Versions, and Copies (oh my!)

This can be a little dizzying at first, but there won’t be a quiz - the purpose of these terms is to help you understand the small differences between seemingly identical things. There is an illustration below, so stay with us on this.



When a learning plan is first created, it is known as a template - the base from which subsequent versions and copies are made. [Even in a school where no two students have the exact same learning plan, it nevertheless almost always makes sense to create a template of minimum requirements, and customize individual plans from this base set.] It's like carved wooden block used in printmaking.



When the template is edited, a new version of the template has been written in its place. Foundry maintains an internal record of the original template, but you, the user, only see the most recent version. 



When you assign the template to a student, the student actually receives a copy of the current template version. Although it remains related to the original template, it is a separate entity - just like the individual print is separate from the wooden block.


Customizing an Individual Copy

When you open (click "edit") a student’s assigned copy of a template and then save it, it is considered to be customized, even if no actual edits were made.  This is a new version of the copy of the current template. Even if it appears in every other way identical to the original template, it has now been customized, and thus “locked.”

Locking the individual plan prevents it from being overwritten if the template is changed and then reassigned to that same student.

When a new version of a template is assigned to a student with a locked plan, Foundry does not overwrite the existing plan; it assigns a copy of the new version. This means that the student could have two related but different plans with the same name, and even the same exact contents. 

If, however, the student’s first copy of the template was not customized (by clicking “edit” and “save”, at minimum), Foundry will overwrite this copy of the plan with the copy of the new version.

Whew! Yes, that's a lot. See the illustration below :



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Paradigms: Frames and Backpacks

There are two very useful paradigms to consider when building learning plans in order to create, assign, and use them correctly to capture student progress: the frame and the backpack. The frame paradigm relates to how students view their progress through Foundry. The backpack paradigm relates to how plans are built, assigned, customized, edited, and reassigned.


Learning Plan as Frame

A learning plan, in essence, is best understood as a lens, frame, or filter. It is a time-based set of requirements, but it effectively holds no other student data. The plan can cover as much or as little time as you wish - a week or four years - and it can be very rigid and detailed or loose and flexible.

If the plan is a frame, think of the performance data as a photograph. As a 2*3 wallet-sized photo will appear very small in an 8*10 frame, data from a single learning experience will not seem to show much progress toward high school graduation.


Imagine a “9th grade” student who has completed five learning targets in a single learning experience this month. But the student performance data exists separate from the plan. How much progress this actually represents (and what will be shown on the performance page) is determined by which plan filters this data. If the learning plan start and end dates include this month, the data will be represented. If the plan consists of only those five learning targets, that represents total completion of the plan.


If, on the other hand, the plan has an end date two months prior to the learning experience, those completed targets will represent zero progress on the learning plan. In this case, we are using the wrong lens, or plan, to view this data. Or, if the plan spans 4 years and contains 250 learning targets, very little progress will show in the plan.

We should either change our expectations of progress from one single experience, or we should change our lens. Some frames are smaller to show that a student’s effort during a given time period has really paid off. Others are longer to provide a framework for generating a transcript for college applications.


This is also why most schools find it useful to build multiple learning plans - in a traditional U.S. high school, for example, where a single student might have a 10th grade learning plan (everything she needs to do to become a Junior), as well as a graduation plan. Some students with disciplinary issues might have an additional behavioral plan to help get them back on track. Whatever work a student is doing at a given time can be viewed through multiple lenses. 

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Learning Plan as Backpack

Let’s call the second paradigm “Classrooms vs. Backpacks.” The learning plan - even one shared by multiple students - is not a container for students, although this is a common misconception. It is not a common location to which students are assigned and then removed.

Rather, it is a filter each student can use to view progress toward an individual goal - even if that same goal happens to be shared by many other students. In other words, it is a standardized container that can be individualized to carry their own learning materials.


Consider this analogy: In a traditional, brick-and-mortar school setting, students may travel from classroom to classroom, using generally the same materials in each class to meet generally the same learning objectives, more or less conforming to a single set of learning standards delivered and measured by a single teacher.

A single substantial change to the classroom - new teacher, new standards, new books - could impact all students in that class.

When they have completed the learning objectives in that room, they leave the classroom and move individually to separate locations. 


A learning plan in Foundry is a backpack, not a classroom. Each student has her own copy of the backpack, which is initially identical to every other, but unique and customizable. Where a school may provide each student with uniform materials and supplies - such as an assignment notebook and the same base textbooks - teachers might add other items, based on individual needs.

Similarly, a Foundry admin/advisor may add or remove targets from an individual student's plan without impacting other students.


Now let's look at that analogy in a hypothetical school without the traditional grade level progression. Students at this school move in phases, at their own pace. When a student is ready to move to the next phase, she completes a prescribed set of gateway tasks.

Three students at this school (named A, B, and C at the moment) are working through a particular learning plan called “Phase 1.” 


“Phase 1” was originally created as a template. An advisor then assigned that template to all three (not the other way around). Each now has an identical - but distinct - copy of a version* of the Phase 1 template assigned.


They have started with the same basic backpacks, but they are not in the same place - there is no classroom known as "Phase 1."  A, B, and C each now have a backpack with the “Phase 1” logo on it, if you will.

From this point, an advisor may customize each individual version, for whatever reason. Their backpacks may contain different books, or have different attachments or additional labels.


*see here to review definitions


We will always know that the backpacks were manufactured from the same template, but they are not directly connected in any way - a change to B’s or C's backpacks does not affect A's backpack. Once B has completed the requirements of the Phase 1 plan, she might get a new backpack, called “Phase 2.” Again, this has no impact on A or A’s backpack.

Consider also that students will likely own more than one backpack during their time in school, often at the same time. Many schools create and assign a “Graduation Plan,” which describes a four-year progression of requirements in order to earn a diploma. It’s like a big expedition pack you might take on a 2-week trek.

At the same time, they likely also have a plan for a single grade level (or “phase”) - think of a daypack you unzip from the main pack to use for a 3-hour hike. The daypack is grade 10. Both “Graduation Plan” and “Grade 10” list requirements for content targets in geography. Once those targets are met, they are met in both plans. 

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From Paradigm to Practice

With these paradigms in mind, how does this work in Foundry?



Now, let’s play this out with names.

"Cersei," "Jamie," and "Tyrion" are three students at "Oldtown High," which maintains a fairly traditional system of grade levels. All three are sophomores.

Oldtown has created a learning plan template called "10th Grade Learning Plan," and assigned it to Cersei, Jamie, and Tyrion. Each now has a copy of the most current version of the template.

An admin user customizes Cersei’s plan (template copy) - by adding one learning target, changing the plan name, and saving it. Cersei’s version of the plan is now called “10th Grade Learning Plan - Cersei Lannister.” 

The admin also customizes Tyrion’s plan, removing three targets, but without changing the name. His customized, locked plan is still called “10 Grade Learning Plan.”

No changes were made to Jamie’s plan.

Later, an admin updates the original template - without changing the template name - and reassigns this new template version (to all 10th graders, including Cersei, Jamie, and Tyrion.)

So, what happened?



Because Cersei’s copy of the template was customized, or “locked,” it will not be overwritten. She will now have two copies of the 10th grade learning plan - her previous customized copy called “10th Grade Learning Plan - Cersei Lannister” and the new version of the template, still called “10th Grade Learning Plan.” If Cersei does not need the other plan, it is easy enough to identify and remove that plan.


Tyrion’s copy was also customized, so his will also not be overwritten. However, because his first copy of the template was not re-named, he will now have two distinct plans titled “10th Grade Learning Plan.” One will have three fewer required learning targets, but neither he nor his advisor will be able to tell the difference on his performance page. Because they have the same name, opening the plan to view changes or differences is the only way for Tyrion and his advisor to tell the two plans apart.

Foundry has no way of knowing whether the admin who changed the original template wanted to also alter Tyrion’s customized copy; and it cannot “merge” the two plans to preserve both the customizations to Tyrion’s first copy and the changes made to the second version of the template.


Finally, because Jamie’s plan was never customized, it will be overwritten with the new version of the template, and he will have only one plan.  


Changes to the Template

As mentioned above, when a template is edited and saved, a new version is created in its place. Foundry users do not see both versions of the template in their workspaces, so a user will not have the option to assign a previous version of a plan to future students. Older versions of the template are accessible only at the individual student level. 


Upcoming changes to Foundry will show users two things -  each template assigned to a student and each version of each template, with the capacity to make any previous version the active version. Currently, however, only the most recent version of a template copy is available.

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From Practice to Best Practices

So what do I do to avoid pitfalls? You ask.

If you want to “switch plans” - e.g., you want to turn sophomores into juniors - 

  1. Remove the Grade 11 plan from any students who will not continue on the 11th grade plan (those starting 12th grade).
  2. Remove the Grade 10 plan from any students who will not continue on the 10th grade plan (those starting 11th grade).
  3. Assign the current Grade 11 plan to the students from step 2.
  4. Remember - at this point, each student has an identical but unique copy of the current version of the Grade 11 template. If you edit the template and reassign it to these students, their copies will be overwritten.
  5. Lock each student’s Grade 11 plan by customizing it. Navigate to Admin > Learning Plans > Manage Plan Templates, then click “edit” next to any student’s plan, OR navigate to Admin > Learning Plans > Manage Individual Plans and search for an individual student. Here are four different ways you can customize the plan:
    • Change learning target requirements: Add/remove targets, change the number of required targets or credits, or add/remove subject groups, or subjects;
    • Change the individual plan name: Many users have developed the convention of simply adding the student’s name (or some variant thereof, like first initial/last name, etc) to the end of the plan: “Grade 11 Learning Plan - C. Lannister”, for example. This way, if you accidentally re-assign the template, you will know which version needs to be removed without having to open and examine the dates, names, targets, etc.
    • Change the plan start and/or end dates: All individual plans will inherit the dates from the template. Especially if your students do not change plans in lockstep - that is, some students can move to the next plan before others - you will need to review the individual plan dates. Remember, the plan start and end dates determine what data is captured on the performance page;
    • Simply edit and save the individual plan: This will prevent the template from overwriting the individual plan, but it will not distinguish the plan from the template, so if you reassign a new version of the template, you will appear to have a duplicate plan, even though they may be different inside.
  6. Repeat for students at the other grade levels.

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Suggested Reading

Note: Articles linked here under "Suggested Reading" are chosen by Foundry Support team members for their relevance and are updated as needed. The articles listed here may differ from those on the right side of the page, where the Knowledge Base AI lists "Related Articles." 


Create and Assign a Learning Plan Template

Learning Plans: an Introduction

Learning Plans: How to Edit and Reassign a Plan


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