Wilmette Institute Further Aligns Its Courses to Support the Universal House of Justice’s Plan

The Wilmette Institute recently developed a new approach to align its courses even more closely with the plans of the Universal House of Justice to support the development of the Bahá’í Faith. To that end, it has published new guidelines for the creation of Personal Learning Plans, known to learners in its courses as PLPs.

What is a Personal Learning Plan? The Institute encourages every learner, when he or she begins a course, to review the course content quickly and make a Personal Learning Plan outlining how she or he will use the educational experience. The reason for the Plan is simple: Wilmette Institute courses are not available for university credit but for personal development and capacity building. No one knows how to use a course for those purposes better than the person taking the course. Bahá’ís increasingly are being encouraged to make plans in all aspects of their lives; hence the PLP supports a broader priority as well. For most Wilmette Institute courses, the only requirement for “completing” the course is completing a learning self-assessment at the end of the course, This is easiest done when learners make Personal Learning Plans at the beginning of the course. Without a plan, it is hard for them to assess whether they have learned everything they intended to learn.

Consequently, the PLP guidelines ask learners to look at the readings and other assignments and decide whether they will do all of them, 75 percent of them, 50 percent of them, or some other amount. After all, planning their use of a course should include a decision about how much of the course they will finish and, therefore, use. The guidelines also ask learners to complete the learning self-assessment at the end of the course.

In addition, the guidelines ask learners to set learning goals in three other areas:

  1. Personal transformation. The guidelines ask learners to consider how the course will effect a change in their attitudes, beliefs, and values. Some possible ways to do this include choosing a prayer related to the course materials to say every day; meditating regularly about the course material; making regular entries in a reflective journal about the course; or conducting a daily conversation with someone about the course.
  2. Community building. The guidelines also ask learners to make a list of ways they can use the course locally to strengthen their communities. This could involve using course ideas and materials in a devotional program, a home visit, a deepening, a fireside, a talk at Feast, a children’s or junior youth class, a study circle, or some other event. These are all activities with which Bahá’ís are familiar, but learners who are not Bahá’ís can create a similar list based on the opportunities available to them at home, work, or at their place of worship.
  3. A formal course project. Finally, the guidelines ask learners to undertake a formal project at the end of the course. The Institute highly recommends that everyone do a project related to the course, such as a PowerPoint, a ten- to fifteen-page research paper, or an artistic project, and report back to the course about how the project was received. The Wilmette Institute publishes selected projects on its public website so that everyone can benefit from them.

The new Personal Learning Plan guidelines were first used in The Ministry of Shoghi Effendi course, which began in February 2016, and immediately proved very useful. Among the Personal Plans were a number drawing on the suggestions in the guidelines, but others included original ideas: Learners pledged to keep a reflective journal; share the material with local youth; use the materials in a Ruhi Book 8 class; conduct meaningful conversations with at least two non-Bahá’ís about the course; compose a poem for use at a local devotional gathering; develop a slide show about Bahá’í administration; give a fireside and a deepening with course materials; draft three articles for BahaiTeachings.org; write a book review about a book about the Guardian’s writings; compose a song based on the course; create a PowerPoint; create an art project; develop materials for use in children’s and junior youth classes; reflect about the Guardian weekly with her family; and strive to understand how faith can transform lives by studying Shoghi Effendi’s life.

What a rich set of contributions to the Bahá’í community lie ahead! You and your community might consider adapting the Personal Learning Plan guidelines to your study of the letters from the Universal House of Justice about the new Five Year Plan.

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