In 2015, The Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell, kicked off a multi-year, multi-method study of systemic efforts to support schools implementing personalized learning. We’ll produce reports that explore many of these topics in depth as the project progresses, but we want to give educators more immediate feedback. In this “Notes From the Field” series, we share noteworthy anecdotes and early impressions from our school visits, interviews, and teacher survey. These posts should be taken as observations from informed and thoughtful partners; we hope they help launch productive conversations and reflection--Betheny Gross
This post appeared April 12, 2017
Last spring, on our first visit to 35 schools committed to personalized learning, teachers often told us they weren’t sure what they were supposed to be doing to personalize learning. Revisiting the same schools this fall, we realized a more fundamental issue was at play: many teachers didn’t seem entirely sure why they were personalizing learning in the first place.
The teachers we interviewed certainly had clear goals for their students: to be ready for college and career, to be lifelong learners and successful adults. And most described the specific objectives for knowledge, skills, and attitudes their students would need to reach these goals. But only rarely could teachers tell us how the activities they do to personalize learning would deliver on these objectives. The problem is, without starting with that end in mind, it’s nearly impossible to build a coherent personalized learning (PL) approach.
In policy parlance, the teachers—and their schools—didn’t have a well-formed theory of action about PL. A theory of action explains how and why a certain intervention or approach is supposed to work. It helps get everyone on the same page about what they are doing and why. And it shapes the goals teachers and schools shoot for so they can see if their efforts are helping students achieve them. Operating without a well-articulated, well-understood theory of action leaves teachers sailing without a rudder and without a defined destination. And that can mean fuzzy or haphazard mix-and-match attempts at personalizing student learning—attempts that aren’t explicitly driven by what teachers want their students to know and be able to do when they leave school.
Take one PL goal: giving students the power to have more control over their learning, or “student agency.” A simple theory of action might look like this:
To support student agency, many teachers in the classrooms we visited had created “choice boards” to give students multiple options for engaging with a unit’s content. These choice boards can be incredibly time consuming to create, take considerable effort to explain to students, and be challenging to juggle once students get going. One middle school social studies classroom let students choose one of five characters (from architect to playwright) from history, each with its own route through the unit. While the students seemed to enjoy getting to choose a persona, many activities across the five routes were identical or similar (not personalized). But most importantly, this teacher—like many others we interviewed—seemed unsure of whether these choices were actually helping her students sharpen their decision-making skills, improve their engagement, or advance their confidence and ability to take responsibility for their own learning and lives—all goals the teacher had for her students.
To be sure, we catch pieces of the logic behind PL when talking with teachers. But more often we hear notes of frustration and confusion (and sheer exhaustion) as teachers try to redesign their classrooms and instructional approaches with little guidance beyond a broad directive to make these approaches more personal, tailored, and student-driven. Teachers are attracted to PL’s core ideas: meeting students where they are, letting students progress at their own rate, and offering students rich and relevant learning experiences, for example. But they appear to need more clarity not just in what they are doing but why they are doing it. Mapping the school’s theory of personalizing learning—and using it as a guide—could help. Here are a few ways to start this process:
Even for schools already knee-deep in PL, it’s never too late to step back and make sure everyone in the building understands why they are doing it.
15 de maio de 2017
Starting With the “Why” in Personalized Learning (Betheny Gross) by larrycuban
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 07:16