Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Personalized Learning: The Art of Trying Again

Personalized Learning in the Common Core Standards

By Amy Esselman

The unit test fails to address the personalized learning needs of all students in the Common Core Standards
If all of my schooling was based on test scores, I wouldn’t be a very happy camper. In school I always disliked how there was one unit test, or one end-of-chapter exam. That was it. That was all you got. You did well or you didn’t, and regardless of the outcome the class moved on.

A unit test was your one chance to demonstrate that you understood a topic and if for some reason you did poorly, it was too late to go back and change it.

As a current student, I don’t agree with this method.

Mastery of a topic of subject matter comes over time. It can’t be timed or forced. Every time I received a bad test score, or a disappointing grade, I wanted to redo it. But, I couldn’t. I wasn’t allowed to; the class was already on to the next subject.

In my mind, that means I didn’t master what I wanted to, and potentially I’m not ready for what comes next. I know I’m not alone. Kids don’t want to be defined by tests scores. They want to show that they can a) improve from where they were, and b) that they really do understand the lesson. So why in the world are traditional tests a “one-and-done” deal? The phrase “if at first you don’t succeed, try again” comes to mind. When did we stop hanging that poster up in schools? Tests and homework are ways to evaluate where a student is to a teacher, but they are also proof to a student that they understand. If they didn’t get it the first time, they should be able to go back as many times as they feel necessary to relearn, retry and improve—all without penalty or lowering of their “grade”.

Personalized learning addresses some of this concern. Personalized learning is student-centered. It’s driven by the student and their specific goals and skills. When paired with the Common Core Standards, personalized learning focuses specifically on what each student needs to succeed. If a student doesn’t feel satisfied with their evidence for a certain standard or skill, there is nothing stopping them from trying it again. They can try a million times. Or they don’t have to.

It’s up to them, and that’s the way it should be.

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