Recently teachers from across the country participated in a summer seminar to grapple with an emerging hot topic in education: how to personalize learning in a classroom full of diverse students with varying interests, skills and learning styles.
The seminar, held at the U.S. Department of Education and via webinar, included presenters who are current and former classroom teachers who offered both the theory and practical strategies for teachers interested in moving their classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all mentality.
ED’s Richard Culatta defined personalizing learning as a way if individualizing learning for each student in the room by adjusting the pace, adjusting the approach, and leveraging students’ individual interests and motivations. He presented examples of schools and programs to illustrate some of the ways these strategies are being used in schools to offer teachers, students and parents plenty of data and formative information that empowers them to create systems that adapt to meet each student’s learning needs.
STEM teacher Matt McCrea took participants through strategies he has used successfully when personalizing instruction for his middle school math and engineering classes. While teaching math, for example, McCrea’s students checked a classroom computer board to see whether they would be working at a computer individually, engaging in a small group task, or reviewing concepts with a peer tutor, pairing with another student, or working with the teacher in a small group or one-on-one setting.
Special education teacher and technology specialist Patrick Ledesma discussed what teachers can do to prepare for personalizing learning and how teacher leaders can help other teachers in their school to design effective personalized learning.
One thing all of the presenters agreed on: using technology to personalize learning does not reduce the need for an effective teacher in the classroom. If anything, there is more of a need for teachers who know their students and engage with them, who plan effective lessons, seek out instructional resources, manage student behavior, monitor learning, and modify instruction. It’s about “moving the teaching profession into the 21st century,” Ledesma said.
Laurie Calvert is an English teacher from North Carolina currently serving as the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.