How We Helped Teachers Understand Personalized Learning

By: Jessica Craig and Noelle Johnson
Jessica Craig is a 3rd grade teacher and Noelle Johnson is a 6th grade teacher at Roxborough Intermediate School, Colorado.

Jessica Craig Noelle Johnson
Presenting the four filters in a classroom setting.

“If you were trying to explain personalized learning to a teacher who has never seen it before and didn’t know what it was, how would you do that?”

This question — posed by Allison Zmuda — inspired the idea for our session at Create Something Great this week.

Our conclusion? That we needed to let teachers experience personalized learning for themselves in order to fully understand it, see the benefits, and adopt it. We explained to our participants that not only would they be learning about personalized learning, but that the session would be set up like a day in our classroom so that they could also experience it.

What did that look like?

“Non-Negotiable” Presentation

This part of our session lasted approximately 20-30 minutes. During that time, we touched on the four filters conceptualized by Allison and Bena Kallick and then dove into the three common “first steps” — or  foundational changes — we both made in our classrooms this year that we felt helped us move forward with personalized learning:

  1. Creating a flexible learning environment
  2. Building classroom culture
  3. Providing the opportunities for student ownership

Break-Out Options

For the rest of the session, we had three break off options, running a timer to go off every 15 minutes. We explained to the teachers that they had the option to switch groups, but they did not have to. They could:

  • Get Inspired: Explore our Google Classroom. This was a self-guided option for those who needed to take a minute to process on their own or who just wanted to “dip their toes in”
  • Get Connected: Go to any of three small groups (1st grade, 3rd grade, or 6th grade) to hear about what a day in the classroom looks like and gather resources, ideas, collaborate, and form relationships.
  • Get Planning: Start creating a “shift in practice” matrix, a roll out plan for the changes they’d like to make in August, create a personalized learning menu, etc.

The Result

We had a variety of different results!

Some teachers chose to attend all three small groups during the 45 minutes; some chose to spend time exploring on their own before attending a small group, then they got planning; some teachers went to two small groups and then got to work, etc. During this “negotiable” part of the session, the teachers were encouraged to use the time in a way that best met their needs – just like in our classrooms!

At the end we came back to some great reflection questions to help them think about both the benefits and challenges of this type of “set up” and how those might mirror what they will experience as they implement personalized learning in their own way in their own classrooms.

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6 years ago

Love Jessica and Noelle! Thank you for sharing this article. We at mindSpark Learning love and appreciate teachers. Allison, we adore you as well and your constant focus on what our students need to succeed.