Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Personalized Learning: Before you Begin

As a science teacher, I implemented various pieces of personalized learning. My students worked on self-paced activities using blendspace, they participated in Genius Hour and were provided with a variety of choices in their learning.  As a coach, I have recently taken a huge interest in creating a culture of personalized learning. The more research I do, the more definitions I find and variety of ways it is done and at multiple levels of personalization. 

As this begins to spread across my district, I wanted to share a few things I have learned.

Before dipping a toe into personalized learning, remember these three things.
  1. There is not one right way to personalize learning for your students. 
  2. You need to have an open mindset. Whether you call it growth mindset, innovators mindset, etc, you have to be open to the students taking control of their own learning. 
  3. There will be levels of failure from you and from the students. How you respond to these failures will determine the success. 

The School Improvement Network has a great video called "The Four Key Elements to Personalized Learning."  

Key elements:

1. Flexibility- Give the students the time, space, and resources to be successful. Some students may need to sit on the floor or spread across several tables. Some students may finish three lessons in one class while others make take three days. Based on the learning objective, give them as many resources as possible. Allow group collaboration, individual work, or working with the teacher.   

2. Student-centered approach- The students should be given voice and choice. Teachers have objectives that need to be hit, but students can learn them in a variety of ways.  Give them many options and allow them to choose their learning path. The path and outcome will look different for each student. Be careful not to over prescribe and micromanage what students do and how they do it.  In the end, allow them to show their learning in a unique creation. Meet them where they are and get them to mastery in the best way for them.

3. Mastery- The objective is to master the standard at least at a proficient level. Again, this will look different for each student and take varying amounts of time. 

4. Effective teaching- The teacher is now able to support the individual needs of all students. This is the time to pull small groups, sit down with students one-on-one and rotate through the class to support different students. 

The Teachers Role

You become the facilitator, which can be uncomfortable for some teachers. Some teachers wonder  “What am I supposed to do?” Now you have time to have individual and small group conversations. Sit down with students and review their work as they are working. Listen to student conversations. 

Here are few questions to use as prompt.
1. What goal are you working on?
2. What activities do you plan to do to reach that goal?
2. How is this activity helping you reach that goal?
3. Where are you at in the process of reaching that goal?


This is post one in a series of post on personalized learning. Check out Post 2: Personalized Learning in Action.

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