Thursday, 8 March 2012

Adapting to Meet the Needs of Personalized Learning

Those of you who have been following our blog on personalized learning will have observed that in order to meet the needs of personalized learning, the role of the teacher must evolve.

As Heather, Jennifer and Kyle have described in their entries, the shift in ownership of learning from student to teacher is at the heart of personalized learning. Aside from creating course content, teachers work closely with students on a range of learning needs. A teacher’s understanding of these needs relies heavily on the use of ongoing assessment, as the emphasis is more on student mastery of learning rather than coverage of content.

This change in emphasis is one of the more pronounced differences between personalized learning and a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than staging evaluation in timed intervals (i.e. at the end of a unit), teachers instead assess student progress on an ongoing basis. These results are used to determine day-to-day student programming, with the student playing a far greater role in deciding what to do next.

Schools intending to move towards a personalized learning approach will need to ensure that teachers have the necessary time and support to refine their knowledge and skills, as the demands upon teachers to keep pace with this rapid pace of change will be significant.

Blended learning provides an opportunity for a more sophisticated type of personalized learning. By placing the direct teaching and/or guided practice part of a typical classroom lesson online (as is the case with the Khan Academy videos), teachers free up class time for rich face-to-face activities which can be completed in groups or independently. Clearly, it takes a high level of teacher expertise to create these online videos and higher-order thinking activities.

Schools intending to move towards a personalized learning approach will need to ensure that teachers have the necessary time and support to refine their knowledge and skills, as the demands upon teachers to keep pace with this rapid pace of change will be significant. Schools may find as well that some degree of specialization within its teaching cohort is a more efficient way to proceed.

Presently, we are utilizing this approach at Greenwood. Our expert teachers are developing course content and teachers in the early years of their career oversee the face-to-face component of the classroom. Thus far, this approach has provided those teachers involved in the program with a great opportunity for dialogue and collaboration.

You can learn more about how the changing role of the teacher by listening to this NPR broadcast which examines the use of blended learning in Northern California.

Allan Hardy
Principal

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