Personalized learning is the direction that many districts are heading, including our school. In visiting other schools we observed the product that they have in place, however they are years into their new learning direction. At the core personalized learning makes really good sense. The thought that every student learns the same way at the same time with the traditional teacher-led versions of instruction, are really antiquated. The question is what does the new model look like and how do we partner with students and families to continue improving education?
I think true personalized learning is more about giving students choice. As I work with 11 and 12 year olds, it's very important to help students explore and recognize their learning style. In addition whatever the learning style is in one setting it might be a little bit different in another setting or different class.
I'm a very linear person. To have straight rows in my room and everything in order just feels right. Yet in my science classrooms that's not always the case. I want students to know exactly what it is I expect from them because I know that science concepts can be very complicated and challenging. Science is certainly a subject that should allow for flexibility with many different avenues to get to those concepts.
This week was my first formal attempt at letting go of that traditional model and allowing students to have choice. It was very basic, on one side of the room I would continue to deliver the direct instruction or as I call it “seminar”. The rest of the room was open for independent student choice. Students choosing to do “independent” work could obviously still hear my seminar discussion in the classroom and incorporate that along with the choice they made. My prerequisite of the independent group was that they had to have a “face-to-face” short sharing time with me at the end of class. This was to show me what they accomplished that is going to help their growth and understanding of the science concepts.
Then at the conclusion of class I had all students complete a Google Form I created. The form would supply some input as to which choice they made, what they did and what did they learn about their learning style. Finally within that form there was one final question, what are they going to choose next time and why? I got this idea from a colleague that has been immersed in this reflection process for the last couple years in her math classroom.
Some students changed their choices midway through my seminar, which was very interesting. In addition, in face-to-face collaboration and sharing at the end of class, having students validate what they did and how they understood it was more valuable than I could ever imagined. This was an insightful view through the students’ eyes.