The Summit Learning Program: Developing Critical Thinking Skills In Dexter’s Students

Dexter Community Schools is piloting a personalized learning model in teams of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teachers at Creekside and Mill Creek.

For the past year, the Summit Learning Program has been used to develop students’ cognitive skills by putting into practice what they have been learning using their own critical thinking abilities.

The model has 3 major components:

  • Personalized Learning Time (PLT) accounts for about 30% of a student’s day. Students work individually, and at their own pace, on “playlists” to master content knowledge (basic facts and skills) from the core subject areas of Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. The teacher monitors the students and guides students toward becoming self-directed learners. Students do not spend time “learning” things they already know and aren’t rushed through concepts they need more time and practice to master.
  • Project Time accounts for about 70% of a student’s day. Students work collaboratively, integrating and applying the content knowledge they learned in PLT, to develop over 30 cognitive skills valued by colleges and potential employers. Examples include: point of view, selecting relevant resources, hypothesizing, critiquing reasoning, explaining evidence, active listening, and oral presentation. The teacher guides the work and
    provides direct instruction either whole group or in small groups as needed. Many of the projects involve real-life experiences.
  • Mentoring is when students meet one-on-one with their mentor teacher for about 10 minutes each week to check-in on how the student is doing at setting and meeting both short term and long term goals. Mentoring is generally run concurrently with PLT.

This level of individualized instruction is made possible by 1:1 technology. All of the above
components are housed in the PLP (Personalized Learning Platform) which is accessible by
students, parents, and teachers. 

Jane Webby, 6th-grade teacher at Creekside, has been working with the pilot program since the inception a year ago. She shared her thoughts with the Board.

“I think we found that the mentoring part is the biggest component to success. Those relationships you build with children are the key to this. And for me it’s all about the things that are not assessed … things such as self direction, perseverance through a set back … all the things you need to be successful in life.

“It’s the projects; you have to do the projects. Because with the content you dip your toes in, but with the project, that’s what commits that application of knowledge. You have to do that to make those connections.

“I get goosebumps everyday when they come up to me and say ‘I don’t get it.’ That’s good right? Because not everything is going to be easy and it’s how I adjust my skills and go at it with a new attack. And the things they are coming up with are just phenomenal.”

Superintendent Timmis reported to the Board that although assessment results are high, there are also so many variables involved that it is impossible to say which ones are directly affecting the scores. Summit Learning has strong support and excitement from the students, parents and educators involved. The pilot program however remains in the test phase and will continue to do so until conclusive results can be drawn.

For more information on the Summit Learning Program visit:


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