Friday, 19 October 2012

Professional Growth Focuses On Personalizing For Student Readiness

On Wednesday mornings, the teachers at Greenwood College School are given time to engage with each other through meetings or PD sessions. This week we began a series of professional growth sessions.

One of these ongoing sessions focused on the development of personalized lessons based on student readiness. To start the group off, we discussed personalized learning as a concept, developing the understanding that to personalize, one must first understand the students’ individual strengths, weaknesses and interests. Personalizing for readiness involves allowing students to work either at their own pace or to build on a skill once they have mastered initial concepts or both. We looked at a learning cycle that could be linked to the practice of personalizing for skill readiness.

When students are learning a certain skill such as writing paragraphs, solving equations or shading to add contour, a teacher who is personalizing their experience would first assess the students’ proficiency with the skill. Based on this pre-assessment, the teacher would identify what needs to be worked on in order to reach the end goal. For example, a teacher working on paragraph writing might follow these steps with a student:
  1. The student writes one or two paragraphs.
  2. From this writing, the teacher would see that the student needs practice with sentence structure.
  3. The student practices creating sentences with proper structure and concise ideation.
  4. The student is asked to write another paragraph for the teacher (re-assessment).
  5. The teacher gives feedback about sentence structure and if there is sufficient improvement the student is given new next steps. For example, the next steps could be that the student needs to work on good opening and closing sentences.

This cycle would continue, each student working on skills specific to their needs until the evaluation for this skill is reached.  The assessments can be the same for each student, but the teacher would focus on the individual student’s next steps at that time when assessing. Alternatively, the assessments vary from student to student if this better assesses individual student progress. The idea is that each student gets individual feedback and practice in order to improve their skills in their area of need.

In the professional growth group that I worked with, each teacher will use the cycle described above to create lessons that are personalized for the student based on their readiness and then share these lessons with their colleagues. As teachers practice these methods in their classroom as well as dialogue about their experiences, we are hoping to build on the culture of personalized learning here at Greenwood College School.

Heather Thomas (formerly Rigby)
Director of Personalized Learning

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