It takes more than just technology to help a student learn in the best possible way. Yes, it has reached far into the future, bringing in amenities that could never have been imagined in a classroom, especially in aiding a student through their daily lessons. But teachers do hold a special place in this classroom setting: they help in bringing about a personalized learning environment, where relationship-building and trust form the foundation of everything that happens in the classroom. In a personalized, competecy-based classroom, teachers move between groups of learners encouraging discussions, helping students explore and set goals, or engage in a more direct instructional method few students at a time. These classrooms offer a student and teacher flexibility, wherein they can work independently as well as together, depending on the type of work they're doing.
These classrooms bring about such a difference, and are indeed a breath of fresh air. Many teachers, students, parents and school administrations, are changing the course of their education to personalized, competency-based learning. And this difference has been welcomed with open arms in all aspects of education.
In an earlier article that talks about personalized learning, a traditional teacher-centered classroom consists of a one-way exchange of knowledge. It has happened in a lot of classrooms, and continues to be the norm in many more. A teacher chooses what students have be working on and when they will have to deliver a direct instruction. This does a fine job in sapping out the energy and enthusiasm, which you can basically call the E in Education.
A student-centered classroom, on the contrary, amps up that energy and enthusiasm in both the student as well as teacher. The teacher, in this scenario, works with students, and has the resources and supports that they need to take risks and follow their students' lead. Students in this case benefit immensely from individually-paced, targeted learning tasks that start from where the student is, formatively assess existing skills and knowledge and address the student's needs and interests.
The idea of students choosing how they learn, showcasing what they've learned, working independently or grouping and regrouping throughout the day might sound messy to teachers. But a student who feels trusted and has ownership over their learning is a more focused and productive student. Learners also have ample opportunities to practice those critical social and emotional skills that will serve them well in the future when they can recognize their own role in enriching the learning environment. Teachers are still responsible for the class, but when students build a community together, deciding on classroom rules and similar procedures, they hold themselves and each other accountable. Rules still exist in this classroom setting - but they are decided upon and enforced by the community, building student agency and ownership.
Teachers must have the support and freedom they need to understand and support each child holistically. Whether it's a unique family situation, a different culture than their own, poverty or trauma, teachers must have the flexibility to meet their own students' needs in creative and appropriate ways. Many teachers use data notebooks with students as a way of involving the kids in goal setting and progress monitoring. The notebooks can also be included in learner profiles, where students set goals and reflect on the ways in which they learn best. Making the most out of the data notebooks can also support a classroom culture that encourages growth mindset: approaching new tasks and skills as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than assuming skills are predetermined.
When personalizing learning, there is a necessary cultural and systematic shift throughout a learning community that brings inequitable practices to light and has the potential to empower teachers to encourage action, and remove these inequities. This may require tough, but necessary conversations about how to serve each child well.
Assessments are stil a reality for schools and teachers in a personalized learning environment. hese would still be comfortable with frequent, embedded student assessments that are closely aligned to instruction so that results can quickly translated into supports for students. These assessments also naturalize the process of assessing progress, and become a regular touchpoint for both teachers and students to get a pulse on what they know and don't know yet.
Growth mindset and comfort with failure as a part of the learning process is something that teachers must cultivate in their interactions with students, and it's made possible by feeling that same support from district leaders and administrators. Teachers need to feel that they are trusted and that things can get better when errors are made.
Creative ways to help students advance at their own pace