Friday, March 4, 2016

Personalized Learning in Action

Check out a few of my other posts on personalized learning: Personalized Learning: Before you Begin & Tools to Personalize Learning

I wanted to share how classrooms are moving on the continuum of personalized learning from a teacher-driven to a learner-driven classroom.  

Meagan Bushell and Kristen Fernandez had decided to start personalizing learning with standard MS-ESS2.1 - “Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s material and the flow of energy that drives the process.” So in the end, the students needed to model the rock cycle and explain the flow of energy within it.

To set this up, we brainstormed components that could be applied to any unit. 

Personalized Learning Components
  • Inquiry
  • Student Centered Activities
  • Flexibility
  • Accountability
  • Self Assessment
  • Choice in Final Assessment 


Creating inquiry by getting students to ask questions about the topic is a great way to peak the student's interest in the topic. To create inquiry, Meagan and Kristen started with the Question Formulation Technique. The structure of QFT can be found HERE.  

First, they had the students gather in groups. They showed the class a picture prompt as the Q Focus. In groups, the students followed the rules of QFT to create questions from the focus image. Groups then turned the questions into open questions and added the important ones to a class Padlet. Together as a class, they sorted and prioritized the Padlet and came up with three questions to guide their learning. 

Final Questions:
    1. What is the rock cycle?
    2. What are the main types of rocks?
    3. What are the processes that transfer energy in the rock cycle?


Once the guiding questions were created, Meagan and Kristen created a playlist of activities for the students to choose from to reach the standard. It included text, videos, interactive websites and a hands-on simulation. The students then reviewed the materials and determined what resources they would use to start learning. Here is where common core reading and writing standards are aligned. Power my Learning is a great site with “playlists” for a variety of concepts. In this case, the teachers chose to use our LMS, Schoology, to get resources to students. 


Students could choose to work cooperatively, independently, or with the teacher. Each teacher arranged their rooms to include independent workstations, collaborative areas, and space for small group instruction with the teacher. Each area was clearly labeled and students moved to areas of the room with a purpose. This gave the teachers the ability to pull students that needed extra support and the flexibility to change those groups. Depending on the group of students, they may need more structure at the cooperatively learning area by using Kagan structures or other collaborative activities.  

The teachers were also flexible with the time. Students that mastered the standard quickly were able to move on when they were ready while other students could take the time they needed to master the content. It is important to keep a pace in mind and the teachers were able to meet with the students and support them if they were going over the allotted time.  


Students were held accountable to the teacher and to themselves. At the end of each period, the students completed a google form that helped them reflect on their progress and plan their next step.
They had to reflect on how close they are to mastery of the standards and how well they worked in their chosen instructional group. 

The second accountability piece was evidence of mastery. Before they could move on, the students had to correctly answer a set of questions in Quia. If they didn’t get 100%, they were able to go back and relearn the material before beginning the assessment activity. Have this done in a site like Quia, enable the students to complete this independently.


In the final assessment, the students were given a variety of choices. They needed to complete a “Rock Cycle Dice” Simulation, then create a “My Life as a Rock” story. This was done in a variety of ways. Some students chose Keynote, iMovie, posters, or coded an Ozobot robot. 

          Student project in progress using the Ozobot to represent the rock cycle.


It was amazing to see some students learn the material and understand the standards in a few lessons. Meagan and I had a conversation about how one student could be doing so much more and with a personalized learning structure now he can! It makes room for true enrichment activities for those who need it and allows more time for others. Behavior issues also diminished in the classrooms using personalized learning. As a teacher, you have to be ready with materials for your students to move on. Personalized learning takes a little more planning on the front of a unit, but its worth it!