Personalized Learning Ideas Established by Powerful Partners

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Giddy is not a word that I casually throw around, but that’s exactly how I felt heading to brainstorm personalized learning ideas at a site visit with Vista High School and Aveson Charter School. Making my way from Lancaster to Altadena, California, the excitement centered around these two schools inspiring one another.

Vista High School is one of the XQ recipients. XQ is committed to redefining learning in high schools across America. I’m thrilled to be one of Vista’s advisors to imagine personalized learning ideas for their students and staff.

Aveson Charter School has been an inspiration for me over the past several years. Aveson is built on a foundation of personalized mastery learning.

personalized learning insightsA team of seven educators from Vista High School came to Aveson to do a site visit of classrooms. We would then share, problem-solve, and imagine personalized learning possibilities with their communities in mind.

I walked away with plenty of insights that may be helpful to you as you navigate your own personalized learning path. We came up with the following questions throughout our meetings, sparking a lot of thought and inspiration!

Personalized Learning Ideas

How could we better organize our students?

Instead of the typical grade-by-grade classrooms, could we implement multi-age classrooms? What about multi-level classrooms?

What should instructional support look like in each classroom?

The role of the teacher within a personalized learning environment is critical. Often times, individualization is confused with personalized learning, leading many to believe the teacher has a lesser role.

That is simply not true. For Vista, we pondered what the specific role of the teacher would be in their environment. We also wondered how we could we add another instructional support person to help facilitate the learning. Our goal being freeing up teachers for small group work and 1:1 conferencing.

How should we design and deliver professional development?

Professional development is often ineffective because it takes on a one-size-fits-all model. This is not only counterproductive, it’s hypocritical within a personalized learning environment. In other words, we must practice how we preach.

Our goal is to create just-in-time learning for the teachers that will cater to their individual needs.

How can we foster healthy behavior and belief around personalized learning?

Personalized learning has become a misunderstood buzzword. Our focus at Vista is to create a culture that trusts this direction is good for kids and adults. We know the process will be messy, but it’s critical to build tolerance around this mindset shift. We must convey that this approach is similar to artists, engineers, and social entrepreneurs.

What will student assessments look like?

We must put together assessments that go beyond focusing on test scores. The end goal is to assess students around successful demonstration of core knowledge as well as passions or interests. Students will have the freedom to take projects into a specific direction based on their individuality.

If we design assessments the proper way, they can actually motivate students toward improving their performance. We want our assessments to be challenging, possible, and worthy of the attempt.

How can we enhance the spaces our students occupy throughout the day?

How can we create personalized spaces to think, reflect, collaborate, and create?

We will look at everything from the design of the room to the furniture in it. Do we incorporate unique chairs so students can fidget or move while they work? Do we use bigger tables to foster engagement? The key is to line up the space with the purpose for learning.

How can we best advise our students?

How are we providing support to our students so they are understanding themselves? We want them to connect with their brains, emotions, and past experiences to take responsible risks. Students should be eager to try something new, set goals, and reflect on their progress.

We may create a standalone class or incorporate advisory into a teacher’s course. Regardless of the final product, it is incredibly important to pay attention to the students’ ability to use their voice, engage in co-creation, and discover what they are learning when they take a more active role in their own journey.

How have you succeeded?

Do you have ideas around any of these questions? Have you succeeded in any of these areas? Please share in the thread below or on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

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