In Allison Zmuda and Bena Kallick‘s upcoming book, Student at the Center: Personalized Learning and Habits of Mind, they define true north by offering a set of personalized learning attributes that can serve as a lens for anchoring a school that is envisioning personalized learning for all of its students. They describe a continuum of personalizing that moves from a more teacher-driven approach to a more student-driven approach.
The Four Personalized Learning Attributes
Typically, students are driven by the school’s curriculum agenda. They become passengers in the journey adults have mapped out. As a result, students have grown accustomed to being told what to do; what to read, what to think, etc.
In personalized learning, every student is seen as a respected and valued participant. Empowerment comes from an environment in which students recognize the power of their own ideas and recognize the shift that can happen by being exposed to others’ ideas.
Students assume a significant design role in the development of the idea, challenge, problem, or inquiry. They are being invited to the design table to co-create a personalized plan using “backward design” principles.
The student works with the teacher to develop a challenge, problem, or idea, clarify what is being measured (learning goals), envision the product or performance (assessment) and outline an action plan to be successful on that performance to achieve the desired results (learning actions).
Students build ideas through relationships with others as they theorize, investigate, and develop in pursuit of a common goal. There is real power in feeling that you are not alone, a sense of camaraderie when you are working to cause a change, create a performance, or build a prototype.
As Riley indicated based on his own observations of many schools:
“The experiences that have most inspired me have shared one singular feature: They have involved rich conversations among a community of scholars. The most compelling classrooms are ones in which learning goals are shared, and knowledge is fostered through social interactions.”
Students need to know enough about themselves to be able to make wise decisions as they navigate through the turbulence of a rapidly changing environment.
Being educated is more than being knowledgeable about a series of topics and fluent in key skills; it also is having students come to understand themselves as learners and know more about what they want to do both in the world as well as in future learning. Our ultimate aim is for students to become self-directed learners who know how to manage themselves in a variety of situations.