Monday, 15 April 2013

U.S. Department of Education Focuses on Personalized Learning

It was interesting to read that the U.S. Dept. of Education selected personalized learning as the focus of this year’s Race to the Top grants. The department is giving the district winners $400 million in federal grants to help spur the redesign of the classroom experience for students. As Michele McNeil notes in Education Week (March 27, 2013), “many of these districts are embracing the philosophy that learning isn’t defined by time spent in the classroom, but by mastery of a particular subject or lesson.”

Districts applying for the grants had to define how they would use the funds to create a more personalized learning environment using “21st-century learning tools to customize instruction to the needs of individual students.” According to Michael Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, the Race to the Top grants will “elevate student-centric learning onto the radar.”

Several of the approved projects are similar to things being done here at Greenwood. $20 million was awarded to a New York State district to support the transition to blended learning. The development of e-portfolios and programs to track personalized learning appeared in several of the selected projects, as did the use of individualized goal setting and digital learning platforms and dashboards, tools which are currently being deployed in our redesigned student adviser program. 

Several of the district coordinators who were interviewed note that the ultimate goal of these personalized learning initiatives is to have students truly own and be responsible for their own learning and to have teachers rethink the way instruction happens within the classroom.

Allan Hardy

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