Foundation of Learning: Personalized Learning

Have you had students that were labeled “Honors” or “Co-taught” and felt that they were extremely misplaced? In education we are taught to differentiate to all learners, but yet we have oversized classrooms and student learning levels that are inaccurate. After researching personalized learning this week, it makes me wonder why haven’t teachers done this sooner?

One reason for schools to feel hesitant is due to parent and teacher support. According to Garrity and Burris (2007), parents were afraid that detracking would watering-down material for advanced students, but too rigorous for the lower tracked students. After successfully building a detracked 9th grade, and beginning on the 10th grade, teachers were putting in professional development hours to learn how to help students go from dependent to independent learning. This led to teachers working more on how to differentiate and personalize instruction for students, while also creating the same mentality for staff development. By revamping Rockville Center to become more individualized for students, the percentage of students receiving the International Baccalaureate diploma increased from 30% in the 1990s to 68% in 2009, which was the first group to be detracked in the school. The article explains that removing the label of the course and allowing students to personalize their learning resulted in students exceeding beyond their previously labeled track.

According to Culatta’s (2013) Tedx Talk, we cannot use technology to recreate what we already have in the classroom. We aren’t going to use a smart board to only write on, because that’s what a chalkboard did before this technology existed. I couldn’t help but think how often we have something new in education, but yet we do not fulfill its purpose. Garrity and Burris (2007) explained that teachers needed training for personalized instruction to ensure that curriculum was rebuilt. This provided a catalog of differentiated lessons for all learners when the students themselves were ready, not when the past pacing guides told us the students would be ready.

Within Cullatta’s (2013) talk it explains how students are given their daily plan by looking at a screen just like you would check our flight at an airport. Towards the end of the class students answer a few questions to help develop a new plan for them the next day. As teachers we use exit slips often to get feedback for where students are at from the days lesson, but do we individualize for their specific needs? Isn’t the point for exit slips to help provide feedback? Yet how are we as teachers able to help the student continue at their own pace when we are moving on because it is day two?

Childress and Benson (2014) express in their article, Personalized Learning for Every Student Every Day, that student learning experiences should be tailored to their personal needs, skills, etc. so the students take ownership of their learning. The article explains that a school in Silicon Valley, California partnered with Khan Academy to create personalized math curriculum for each student. When most people think of their math class, they believe it is a teacher standing up front lecturing about formulas and the students working to memorize them for an upcoming test.   This school decided to create a blended math model that had the teacher present a topic, then students used technology with an individualized plan filled with exercises to help see what the student should do next. Students could receive feedback, and adjust accordingly through Kahn Academy or by one-on-one tutoring. Based on student feedback the school opened a “Tutoring Bar” because the students wanted to ask more questions to continue their own learning path.

As a maker and a math teacher, shouldn’t we focus on repurposing the lessons that we have with the technology at our fingertips to create a learning environment suited for each individual? We must use the feedback from research, students, and educators in order to benefit the ones that matter most, our students.

References:

Childress, S., & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized Learning for Every Student Every Day. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 33-38. doi:10.1177/003172171409500808

Garrity, D. T., & Burris, C. C. (2007). Personalized Learning in Detracked Classrooms. School Administrator64(8), 10-16.

Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. (2013, January 10). Retrieved June 2, 2016, from TEDx Talks,http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

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