The Role of the Teacher in a Personalized Learning Classroom

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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Happy Thanksgiving week! So incredibly grateful to all of the educators who continue to imagine, design, and create powerful personalized experiences for all learners. Whether you are taking small steps or big leaps, your bravery to take responsible risks, vulnerability as you grow from feedback, and commitment to make learning more challenging, possible, and worthy of the attempt is so important for every learner — including and especially you.

This newsletter is grounded in a common personalized learning question Bena Kallick and I are asked often by teachers — Am I doing “it”? As we continued to peel back the onion of what does the “it” mean, we uncovered that many teachers personalize through decentralizing the instructional experience (e.g., developing stations, designing independent projects) where the students were expected to manage and monitor thinking, but often worry about effectiveness of the learning and feel a bit unmoored from the students.

We contend the teacher is more important in today’s classroom than ever before to grow student thinking. However, it does require deep reflection on how to develop responsive learning plans by eliminating antiquated pedagogical moves to make space for classic and contemporary practices. This shift to examine our pedagogical practices was beautifully articulated by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Alcock in their most recent book Bold Moves (ASCD, 2017) by prompting us to consider: What do we cut? What do we keep? What do we create? To unpack what that looks like, in this issue:

  • Bena and I take the lead and describe the three interrelated roles of the teacher in a personalized learning ecosystem: lead learner, facilitator, and coach.
  • We then move to teachers who describe their own discoveries in how they engage their learners.

What pedagogical moves are you uncovering that still remain impactful for contemporary learners? What instructional habits have outlived their usefulness? What are you creating to engage with and grow the thinking of your students? Would love to hear from you. Reach out via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!

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