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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Personalized Learning- Challenges and Successes

Personalized Learning- Challenges and Successes

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The concept of personalized learning can be overwhelming for teachers. In today's diverse classrooms, it's can be challenging to accomodate students with IEP's and 504 plans, let alone take on the task of personalizing learning for all students. Yet we all know that students aren't widgets- they are individuals, and they all come to the classroom with strengths, weaknesses, challenges, different background and cultural experiences, let alone different developmental stages and abilities. We know personalized learning can be done, but it requires re-framing what a classroom looks like, and how it functions. What have been your biggest challenges or successes with implementing personalized learning or differentiated instruction in your classroom? What would you like to see discussed here? What do you see as the greatest area of need? We can't wait to hear from you!

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Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

[quote]I know something like this will take time for me and that I can't do everything my first year. However, I would really like ideas that have worked for other teachers in order to personalize learning for all students especially the student below and above grade level.[/quote]

Hi Sarah!

In first grade, you're getting kids who are just starting to learn to read, and it's a great time to look at those who are struggling for extra help. You might want to check out Sally Shaywitz's book on Overcoming Dyslexia- many kids who struggle with reading actually process words with different brain pathways than fluent readers. Programs like Wilson Reading, Orton-Gillingham and others which are very phonics rich programs have been helpful to help kids with learning disabilities learn to read. If you have any concerns about your struggling students, even with Response to Intervention as a strategy, please don't hesitate to get them evaluated if you think they need it. Problems that aren't addressed early have a way of compounding themselves as kids move through school.

Let's start another thread about personalizing learning in the early grades, and move the discussion there!

Jenifer Fox's picture
Jenifer Fox
Strengths Consultant, Author, School Leader

One key element to remember about kids in first grade is that are natural learners. Provide as many choices as possible for them--show them how to use things and then let them make choices about what to use. For example, when teaching reading, set up stations. Have different books with different themes at each station. Base the station themes on what you know about the students--set up some common interest stations. Have a recording station where kids can read into a tape recorder if they want and then play it back. Have a listening station where some books can be heard. Hope this helps.

Terry Heick's picture
Blogger

Differentiated instruction added after the fact--that is, to a traditional unit-and-lesson template is often difficult to do meaningfully. Planning units with differentiation in mind allows for more seamless modification of planned instruction based on assessment data.

I guess my point here lies in instructional design. Without considering differentiation on this scale, it can be quite difficult to *meaningfully* implement--but the work here is crucial!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Lora- I love what you have there- easy ways for people to break down DI into workable steps!

Terrell- I agree- at the heart of it, DI works best when you think of it as an integral part of the planning, and not just whipped cream added at the last minute. I think if folks look at things like Lora's steps and they start thinking about those goals while doing their planning, it makes DI seem manageable and less overwhelming. The key here is to chunk things up for teachers, just like we do for students.

While I personally think DI and personalized learning is a bit of a paradigm shift and reframes the way you look at the classroom, I think most folks would rather have a few things to try, sample or do before they are willing to buy the new frame- what do you think?

Terry Heick's picture
Blogger

Absolutely. If the audience is educators building fluency in the concept of differentiation, the "5 hours/5 days/5 weeks/5 years" represents an excellent way to get started.

Jenifer Fox's picture
Jenifer Fox
Strengths Consultant, Author, School Leader

[quote]Differentiated instruction added after the fact--that is, to a traditional unit-and-lesson template is often difficult to do meaningfully. Planning units with differentiation in mind allows for more seamless modification of planned instruction based on assessment data.

I guess my point here lies in instructional design. Without considering differentiation on this scale, it can be quite difficult to *meaningfully* implement--but the work here is crucial![/quote]

Yes, yes, yes, Terrell! DI is first and foremost about good and thorough planning. In fact, as a teacher supervisor, I notice that most teaching that falls apart or becomes confusing does so precisely because there is a lack of overall planning, or backwards planning that has the assessments and products in mind from the get go. People often think project based learning is difficult...but it really takes great planning to execute best.
Funny thing about planning, I think it is one of the most critical strengths teachers need to be great teachers. If planning isn't a is not a strength than those teachers need planning support of some kind.

Jenifer Fox's picture
Jenifer Fox
Strengths Consultant, Author, School Leader

Whitney, I think the building blocks of sound practice must begin with the foundation. Planning is the foundation. We can sew cute window dressings all day long but without a solid structure, there is no real window to hang these niceties on.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

As usual, we are in violent agreement- it all starts with great planning

Terry Heick's picture
Blogger

Yes! And great planning needn't be--in fact, generally can't be--overly-rigid. Planning doesn't equal scripted and sequenced. It means thought-out. Intentional. Designed.

The only non-negotiable is understanding.

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