Friday, June 22, 2012

Learning without Talking Is Like Writing with Your Hands Tied Behind Your Back

Personalized Learning in the Common Core Standards

By Amy Esselman
Personalized learning cannot happen in classrooms where silence is required.

In school there were lessons I loved, and others I zoned out on. Well actually, thinking back on it, there were a lot I zoned out on. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn. I did. I just wasn’t engaged. I know I wasn’t alone. In fact, right now there are students everywhere feeling the same way—waiting for something to peak their interest. But instead, they just watch the teacher talk. How many are listening?

Enter : Personalized learning.

Personalized learning refocuses the classroom attention back on students instead of teachers. Well sure, you say learning has always been “student centered”, that’s the whole point. But for too long the unique needs of individual students have gone unnoticed. Not every student learns the same, and certainly not at the same speed.

The verdict came in a long time ago: Teaching one way is out.

The same areas rarely motivate students in the same way. I speak from experience when I say that some class sessions certainly didn’t have me throwing my hand in the air eager to participate.

While some students are able to learn through lectures, they are few and far between. Teachers can talk the talk, all day in some cases. But can they walk the walk? Could they sit where the students are and learn the same way? Teachers are mentors, tour guides on the journey of student discovery. You aren’t teaching a lesson, you are guiding a student. That means paths change. Techniques get altered.

There is a high level of autonomy built into the concept of personalized learning. Everything can be adapted to accommodate the needs of all your students. They can all learn the way that makes the most sense to them. That’s huge!

Teachers don’t have to pull teeth trying to engage students in a “one size fits all” lesson. It didn’t work before, and it doesn’t have to now. Teachers will help steer and encourage students, but they won’t be doing all the talking.

Students will talk. They will talk to the teacher, to their peers, to their friends, their parents, maybe even to themselves!

If fact, the classroom goal should be more talking. My friends and I always got in trouble for talking, but maybe we were on to something. Here’s a challenge: Talk Less. Explain less. Instead, encourage students to make sense of it in their own way—in a way that they choose and understand.

Advise, guide, encourage, and listen. Let students do the talking and take their place at the front of the classroom—you’ll both be glad you did.

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