How do you differentiate instruction?

Personalized Learning- Challenges and Successes

Whitney Hoffman Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

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!

Comments (23)

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Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

This is interesting to read.

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This is interesting to read. But I think we also have to recognize that some students will need more help and motivation than others; if we move teachers into a mere supervisory role, will they still have any stake in an individual student's outcome?
Like you a believe every kid wants to learn and needs appropriate; preferably self-paced challenges, however, I think if you give a 6 year old the choice between learning to read and getting through the hard parts, particularly if they have a learning disability, and taking a trip to the playground instead, you will see a percentage of kids who choose not to push themselves but are perfectly content doing whatever they want.
I think you're still going to have to have some outside metrics of achievement and quality. I think you're going to have to have teachers who are excited about learning and can communicate how fun and worth while even the challenging stuff is to their students. You will have many self-motivated students, but plenty that are not so driven, just based on their neurobiology. How would you handle the folks who inherently need a more structured environment, and at early developmental ages are unable to provide that structure for themselves? How do you account for the developmental stages of children in this model?

I am currently trying to

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I am currently trying to offer students in an 8th grade Agriscience Exploration class the opportunity to choose and pursue a self paced study from our course of study. The biggest potential problem was that split between those that are self motivated and those that were not. We are about two weeks into the process and most of the more mature students are well into developing lists of possible projects and activities that can satisfy a specific section of the COS. How ever after numerous explinations and rationals that discribe the opportunities available about thirty to fifty percent of each of two classes have elected to do only what they are told to do. Most of the students in this group are boys. I have selected a study in small engins hoping we can start with an area of interest and build on this as we move softly toward the more flexable format the others are following. I plan to direct the study making adjustments as we go moving some of the students into leadership roles and eventually into more personalized studies. I find at this age the girls are more mature than the boys most of the time. I have a few young men that are also more focused on the opportunities offered. I beleive that if there are expectations of the student from home that relate to preformance and their future there is a greater potential for students to recognize opportunity and pursue it. We are trying to work from a form of basic introduction/research to some level of simulated or real entrepreneural format. Some will reach the upper levels some will not but we are trying. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

The technology is part our

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The technology is part our the solution. The lack of activity on a student's computer can be flaged to help the instructor know where someone is lagging behind. The student would be directed to meet with the instructor, redirected with new activities, or brought into a small group where students would work together. Part of your staff would be counselors who would identify and work with emotional challenges or developmental challenges. In a classroom, the teacher would need to balance this with class dynamics and discipline issues. Also, remember that one of the great things that happened in the "one room school" was students helping students. Something that has been brought back in recent years and could be developed and expanded.
Personal contact and social interaction is not eliminated but is not so dominate that it gets in the way of offering more personal help. I appreciate Dennis Deaton's comments and his efforts. If artificial marking periods or ridged deadlines are not imposed on him, he may find some of his current challenges work themselves out over time.
In our current system, once a student starts to get behind, they are often moved on increasingly becoming more behind. (What did the "A" student learn that the "D" student didn't?) Time can not be the constant, learning must be the constant. Allowing mastery learning to occure should allow each student to developmentally progress. There are times where each may be behind the "curve" and times they move ahead.
As far as support from home is concerned, that is always better, but not always available. My wife taught in Detriot for 5 years. We begane to realize that lack of support becames almost a cultural expectation. Intervention became very difficult because all the student could see at home was dispare and low expectations. Many who tried to overcome experienced the "crab basket effect" from their community.
Challenges can be met when the educator is free to interviene and is not interrupted by the many expectations of a classroom.
My paper is not a completed product. There are many mechanical issues to work out, but I believe that trying to work from a model we have been working with will be more dificult than totally changing the way we look at what we do. Some of the end result may look a lot like what we do today, but by comming at it from a compelely different direction we will at least have a fresh new view.

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