Monday, June 18, 2012

The Teacher as a Resource

Personalized Learning in the Common Core

By Amy Esselman

When classrooms have personalized learning, the teacher becomes a resource rather than the sole source of knowledge.
When I think about classrooms--classrooms in which I had been taught years ago or the college classes where I find myself lately, there seems to be a reoccurring pattern:

Desks in a row. White board at the front. Teacher talking.

But, as I’m sure some of you are already aware, classrooms don’t look like this anymore. The old model is out, and we are on to bigger and better things.

When I was in elementary school and then high school, teachers were at the center of any learning. They told the class which lessons we were learning and helped lay the framework for our objectives. Essentially, teachers held the key to classroom. In my mind, it made sense—that’s why they stood at the front of the room, right? But now, the keeper of the keys has changed.

Personalized learning, switching from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered classrooms, is on the rise. With the Common Core Standards finally being implemented into schools, it’s time to imagine what more and more classrooms are starting to look like. The scenery is changing and students and teachers alike like what they see.

The autonomy of the Common Core Standards means that teachers will have a greater flexibility of how to teach and how to help students improve in certain skill areas. The Standards only call for certain skills to be learned, instead of the specifics of how to learn them, and that’s a good thing. Now, with the help of the Standards and the dedication of teachers, education can—finally—be tailored to the unique needs of students. Teachers will become even more of a resource. Instead of standing at the front of the room all the time, the teachers will become mentors, helping steer students in the right direction on their course of learning.

Imagine more small groups, innovative individual projects, increased peer-to-peer conferences, exploratory research with technology and new applications, outside experiments, portfolio construction, blog assignments, enhanced computer usage integrated with lessons, one-on-one instruction—the list goes on. Until now these things have existed, but not altogether, and they were not regularly utilized.

A “special” project was a once in a while occurrence, or a breath of fresh air from regular instruction. These concepts are a reality and they are happening right now in classrooms all over the country. Personalized learning combines the interests and skill levels of individual students and lets them have an active role in how they approach learning objectives. Students will have more time to work with teachers on how to understand concepts that they may have missed in a regular class setting.

More learning can take place when you explore the possibility of trying something new. The kids that weren’t motivated by group learning might flourish. The students who weren’t challenged can create projects and test themselves. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I would have craved in school—the chance to showcase my strengths and think outside the box. I would have given anything to integrate what I loved with what I was learning.

When we give students, and not the teacher, the key to achievement and success, the stakes change. Classrooms will never look the same, but maybe that’s a good thing.

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