This week, while I was doing my classroom observation, my teacher walked up to me and asked me if I had ever heard of this new thing the school district was pushing called personalized learning and what I thought of it. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and asked if personalized learning is like an IEP for every student. Apparently it is and isn’t. According to the FNSBSD website:
Personalized learning is structuring schools, classrooms and instruction to better respond to the individual needs of students, instead of expecting them to fit the current mold or adapt to structures that may not be successful for them. We have teachers using elements of personalized learning in their classrooms right now.
Personalized learning shifts from the one-size-fits-all factory model of education to better prepare students for the jobs and needs of their future. We will directly connect students to learning that meets the demands of their future work environment.
This makes me believe that the format personalized learning will take will be left to the teacher. I was also able to find a PowerPoint presentation with some vague examples of what a day in a class participating in personalized learning would look like. Mondays would be spent in pre-assessments and whole group instruction so that background knowledge, new content, and expectations could be communicated. Tuesday through Thursday would be a rotation between small group instruction, digital content (think online class work) and independent or small group work. Friday would involve post-assessment and something called student choice, which I believe is an opportunity for student to revisit one of the stations used Tuesday through Thursday.
I’ll admit I like this plan, the pre- and post-assessments will help to gauge student learning, while the middle days will, hypothetically, engage students. What concerns me is how this will play out realistically. How are we, as future teachers, supposed to both engage a small group of students and monitor the rest of the class to make sure they are somewhat on task? Additionally, if the small groups are split based on experience level or skill, will we end up with three or four different “classes”, in which students of one period only end up working with the same five students over and over? It is my experience that in general, especially in subjects such as math and science, the students who do well one week will be the same students who are doing well the next week, and that students that have problems understanding past material will have trouble building upon that week foundation. I like the idea of a personalized classroom and students being able to learn and explore at their own pace, but I do not think it is the sole way to teach, I believe that rather than a 20%-80% split between more traditional methods and individualized methods that a 50%-50% split between the two methods would be more appropriate. At least until students and teachers become used to individualized education.
FNSBSD PowerPoint (PDF)