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March 2017 | Volume 74 | Number 6
Getting Personalization Right
It should come as no surprise that many students are excited to have voice and choice in their learning experiences. In a podcast episode titled "Student Voice: A Catalyst for Personalized Learning" on GettingSmart.com, several students offer their impressions of personalization. "It's figuring out what [students] want this class or school to look like," said one student. Listen to the episode.
Students in more than 60 schools that implemented grant-funded personalized-learning frameworks made significant gains in both math and reading scores over two years, according to an analysis by the RAND Corporation.
All of the schools had received funding for personalized-learning initiatives from the Gates Foundation, which commissioned the RAND study. Although the details of the schools' instructional models differed, the foundation has outlined an approach that emphasizes individual learning profiles, customized academic pathways, competency-based assessment, flexible learning environments, and college-and-career orientation.
The RAND study found that math and reading test scores at the schools grew substantially compared with national averages. In addition, the majority of lower-achieving students in the personalized-learning schools made greater gains than their counterparts in other schools did.
Using survey data from the schools, the RAND researchers found that three particular personalized-learning substrategies were most closely tied to achievement gains, especially when used in tandem: student grouping that is flexible and responsive to individual learning needs; students' involvement in conversations about data; and learning spaces that are conducive to small-group and varied work. The researchers caution that, though subjected to statistical-validity tests, the study was not randomly controlled.
Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning (2015) is available.
Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds by Edward P. Clapp, Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan, and Shari Tishman (Jossey-Bass, 2017)
How can educators use the maker movement—characterized by the use of production tools to design, personalize, and fabricate products—to engage students in hands-on learning? This book provides insights to help educators transform students into makers and classrooms into maker spaces.
For three years, a team affiliated with Harvard University observed a variety of maker-centered learning environments, examining what maker environments look like and what results this type of learning produces. The team found several distinctive characteristics of maker-centered learning: It's social; combines diverse skills; relies on "distributed teaching and learning" and an expectation that people will share information; and involves "rapid prototyping, interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving, and flexibility."
Through interviews, the authors also investigated the benefits of maker initiatives. Although strengthening STEM concepts is a typical rationale for launching maker-centered learning, what stood out to the researchers was students' sense of personal agency or "maker empowerment." Students found "opportunities to make things that are meaningful to oneself and take ownership over that process of making," the authors write.
33% of district administrators endorse individualized education plans to improve college and career readiness.
40% of schools have implemented online classes for students and online professional development for teachers.
48% of teachers use technology to provide students with regular feedback on their performance.
54% of school principals report positive outcomes as a result of implementing digital-learning content.
Source: Blackboard's June 2016 report, How K–2 Leaders Are Empowering Personalized Learning in America's Schools.
The Learning Accelerator website offers resources and information to promote blended learning. The site's "Personalization" page features more than 50 short videos describing or showing practices at blended learning schools, grouped into four categories: differentiation, flexible resource allocation, student choice and agency, and support for self-directed learning. Dip into this collection to watch videos like the following:
"Personalization empowers students to know themselves
and teachers to know their students."
—Meng Li Lusardi
Copyright © 2017 by ASCD
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