Friday, 23 November 2012

What Does Personalized Learning Look Like at Greenwood?

More and more schools are talking about personalizing the experience for their students. How this is accomplished can be very different depending on the goals, values and resources at a school. When asked "What does personalized learning look like at Greenwood College School?" we must start with the student. Our primary role as educators at Greenwood is to get to know the strengths, weaknesses and goals of our students, to help them to know themselves and to guide them through challenges so that they grow in all aspects of character – intellectual, moral, civic and performance character.

Figure 1:  This graphic illustrates personalized learning at Greenwood. The end goal, the 4 pillars of character, is depicted in the outer ring. How we go about personalizing the path students take as they grow is shown in the inner rings.

Teachers develop a holistic understanding of a student’s needs not only through experiences in the classroom but also within the adviser group, through athletics, through the school play or the school band. In every case, teachers customize the program to meet the needs of the individual.

Students at Greenwood learn in many arenas, both within and beyond the classroom. They are able to learn effectively and in a personalized way because they have the support of the facilitators illustrated in the pink ring of the graphic. They are exposed to different peer groupings and experience same-age, mixed-age and mixed-level classrooms. They experience character growth through the arts, athletics, community service, outdoor education, within the classroom and through authentic experiential opportunities. In the classroom, personalizing occurs through self-pacing and readiness, providing extension and support when needed, giving choice to link learning to interests and using technology to support and create a personalized program (both within blended learning and traditional courses). In blended learning classes, students function on a “just in time” model so that learning occurs when and where they need it.

Personalized learning at Greenwood means many things and is found in all aspects of the student experience. It means providing our students with support and challenge that is appropriate to their immediate needs and long term goals and helping them feel fulfilled and accomplished. It means that we encourage students to follow their interests as well as try new things. It means that if they need to move quickly through a topic or skill, or if they need to be given enrichment to stay engaged, we do this. It means that if a student needs support in a topic or if they need material to be presented in a different manner, we provide this.

Ultimately, personalized learning at Greenwood College School means that each student will have a different experience at school than their peers. Within a set menu of courses and activities, how or when the student navigates these experiences will be different based on their individual needs and goals. The important thing is that they continually grow and they leave Greenwood furthered all aspects of their character.

Heather Thomas (formerly Rigby)
Director of Personalized Learning

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