Every year or so, something new and exciting comes along in education…something that is research based and considered “best practices” or “best for kids”. Managing all this change can be overwhelming. The key to managing any new initiative is how you unpack it. I am dedicating this months blog to all my friends who are teachers and co-workers that go on this journey with me every year or so. This month I will highlight my journey for personalized learning in math and hopefully give you some ideas. Remember…this is my journey and you may have a different path (aka personalized learning). Additionally, I am not an expert in personalized learning nor am I an expert at change management, so I am always looking for ideas and welcome feedback to improve my practices.
What is personalized learning?
The Evergreen Public School District defines Personalized Learning as: A personalized learning experience that is centered on the unique interests and needs of the learners. The essentials, when applied across content areas and grade levels, support the authentic application of knowledge in real-world situations, and establish a “floor” of effective student and teacher practice district-wide.
The “Essentials of Personalized Learning” chart, breaks Personalized Learning down by instructional factors and environmental factors, each with sub-categories. For brevity purposes, I am going to focus on the instructional factors in math #bringing-math-into-the-spotlight with the sub-category of Critical Thinking and Creativity which is defined as “students use disciplined processes to apply knowledge and skills in innovative and practical ways, addressing authentic, real-world problems. They construct and communicate new understanding by seeking out and evaluating information from a variety of sources, experiences and perspectives to generate unique ideas and solutions.” Click on the above link for the Essentials of personalized learning.
My action plan into personalized learning!
With any new initiative, I begin with a simple plan of attack. I ask myself “where am I at with personalized learning, where do I want to be with personalized learning, and what steps do I need to take to achieve my goal in personalized learning?”. The first question is an important one for me because with any new initiative, usually there are things that I am already doing, (e.g.workshop model, classroom expectations, and the structure of the classroom.) Remember…good teaching is good teaching. When new ideas or structures come along, typically, they fit right in with what you are already doing.
What elements of personalized learning are already in place?
- Workshop model (aka flexible learning environment) – Naturally sets up a positive learning culture that promotes a safe and healthy learning environment. Students contribute their voice to creating a culture and thoughtful risk-taking that values and acknowledges the diversity of the communities with which they interact. In addition, students learn and continually increase their ability to engage in math practices using academic language, collaborate in multiple formats and various settings independently and as a team.
- Tools – Tools are accessible and explicitly taught to help students use disciplined processes to apply knowledge and skills in innovative and practical ways.
- Classroom – Students communicate and collaborate for a variety of purposes, in multiple formats and various settings, both independently and as a valuable member of a team.
What elements of personalized learning can I enhance?
- Critical Thinking and Creativity…students use disciplined processes to apply knowledge and skills in innovative and practical ways, addressing authentic, real-world problems. They construct and communicate new understanding by seeking out and evaluating information from a variety of sources, experiences and perspectives to generate unique ideas and solutions.
In other words…
I want the students to take what they have learned in math (making a ten strategy) and apply it in various ways using the tools they have access to and be able to talk about their process for solving the problem.
For example: A story problem is presented to them. I have the students read the problem with me and I give them think time (1 min or so). I ask the students to put a thumb up if they are ready to choose a tool. I give the students approximately 5 minutes to solve the problem. We then share our thinking, being sure to have students share about their different tools they used (e.g. hundreds chart, counting bears, white boards, number lines).
Below is a link to a classroom video that demonstrates how I used personalized learning in my calendar time. Calendar time in my classroom was mostly teacher guided time to practice counting, measuring and simple addition problems. By adding 3 story problems that range from 1 being the easiest-3 being the hardest, students are able to choose which problem they want to attempt. In addition to choosing a problem, they are able to choose a math tool, where they want to work in the room and if they want to work with a partner. In the video you can see that students are mostly working independently and a many different tools were being used (e.g. counting bears, white boards, 100’s charts, 1 blocks.)
What steps do I need to take to achieve my goal in personalized learning?
- Time – Need to make math a priority and carve out time for students to practice and apply math concepts to real world situations. #bringing-math-into-the-spotlight
- Create – Create classroom space for students to have flexible seating in order to work independently, with a partner or in small groups.
- Review – Review math manipulative expectations and have the manipulatives easily accessible.
How can I take personalized learning to the next level?
Measures of Individual Proficiency – Assessment is approached as learning or as a support for learning. A variety of assessment strategies are used to monitor and evaluate understanding of standards-based content knowledge and skills, foster self monitoring and facilitate reflection to promote student autonomy as referenced in the Essentials of Personalized Learning
In other words…
I want students to reflect about the strategies and tools they used in solving story problems and evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies and tools used. Did the strategies and tools help them be efficient mathematicians?
My advice for any new journey…
When it comes to teaching and implementing anything new, RELAX, TAKE A BREATH, and ENJOY THE JOURNEY. Most likely you will find that you are applying “best practices” and you are doing “whats best for students” because good teaching is good teaching. It does not matter what the “flavor of the month” is because it is how you unpack it!
Please send me any questions or comments about my journey of personalized learning.
I believe that the foundation of all learning begins in the home and all students are "OUR" students.Not yours, not mine but OURS.