George Lucas Educational Foundation

Personalized Learning versus Tracking

Personalized Learning versus Tracking

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I came across this article yesterday- - talking about the challenge of teaching high and low achievers in the same classroom, and discussing how one school approached the problem. This article brought up an important question though- how do we balance excellence and equity? How can we make sure each child gets all the support they need to do their best and maximize their potential, yet make sure they are still exposed to a diverse range of students, however you define that diversity- IQ, disability, cultural, socio-economic- you name it? I would argue that in medicine, we all want to be treated as unique individuals, but our problems are based on common disease processes, and the fact that people, like cars, tend to break in predictable ways. We need our doctors to be able to sort out whether we have a unique problem that needs special attention, or a more run of the mill problem, that can be treated by a common, typical, easily repeatable and predictable treatment plan that works for the vast majority of folks, hoping we won't be one of the outliers who are poor responders. In education, do we need to do the same thing? Is personalized learning and differentiated instruction essentially trying to treat students as individuals, giving them the education they need, but always keeping an eye out for the outliers who need a little more customization or special treatment from the rest? What do we do when the group of outliers seems to switch up depending on the subject matter or lesson at hand? Can we afford to treat kids like widgets, or can we develop ways to treat them more like patients- each needing their own treatment, but falling into broader categories making providing that treatment easier to manage and maintain? What do you think? Is differentiating instruction and personalized learning just another way to say "cluster ability grouping" and even if it is, does it matter what we call it if kids are getting what they need? Is the name- Personalized learning and Differentiating itself a problem, because it creates too many expectations or cause too much anxiety for teachers? What do you think?

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