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Author: Copper Stoll and Gene Giddings

Challenges and Solutions in Creating a Learner Improvement Cycle for Personalized Mastery

July 9, 2014 by

challengesIn our previous entry, we foreshadowed the need for learner involvement in all aspects of the Learner Improvement Cycle. The Learner Improvement Cycle is our adaptation from the work of Richard C. Owen’s Teaching-Learning Cycle. Our major innovation to Owen’s work is the focus from the teacher’s actions to the impact those actions have on the learner.  The Learner Improvement Cycle also encourages learners to seek multiple sources for their learning and to display their learning through technology, peers, teachers, experts in the field, and authentic audiences. This begins to enliven students’ acquisition and application of college- and career-readiness skills and knowledge. A major role change for both students and teachers is needed. Four challenges of implementing the Learner Improvement Cycle are:

  • Assessing: How does a teacher use assessment to instill academic confidence in his/her learners?
  • Evaluating: How do the adults in a school partner with their learners to provide authentic feedback on student results?
  • Planning: How are the learners personalizing their goals and action plans for learning?
  • Learning: How can learners master the standards through issues they find interesting?

Assessing Challenge: In many classrooms across America, every Friday, teachers say, “Put your books away, its time to take the test.”  The word “test” strikes fear in the hearts of many of those learners. This is because summative assessments are usually administered in a time-based manner; some students have been ready for days to display their knowledge and skills, while many of their classmates need more days and resources in order to master the concepts. Lessons learned from this kind of summative practice frustrate students and you hear, “Why do I have to wait to take the test? I’m ready now!” to “Why do I have to take the test now? I’m not ready!”  This reinforces students’ beliefs about themselves as learners. For the first learner, they fall into the trap of effortless learning and become frustrated when learning is finally presented to them at their instructional level. The second learner is reinforced that no matter how much effort they expend within the teacher’s timeframe, they will not be successful and gaps in their understanding become exacerbated.  Many students have had their confidence shaken as a result of this process. (more…)

Four Pitfalls to Implementing Personalized Mastery: The Culture

July 2, 2014 by

cultureThe journey to a personalized learning system is fraught with pitfalls and hurdles. Can you get your Board on board? Will teachers embrace new practice to replace current practice? Can you create a communication plan for all stakeholders that really communicates? Will a system that has been in place for one hundred years surrender to one that prepares learners for the next one hundred years? We have found that on this journey there are some key practices that must be built to help answer “yes” to these questions. These practices fall into two categories:

  • Common Moral Purpose
  • Culture of Continuous Improvement
    • Readiness for Change
    • Trust to Doubt
    • Learner-centered Collective Efficacy

This article will focus on these two categories, which help to create a culture for personalized mastery. The Learner Improvement Cycle will be explored in a subsequent article.

Creating a Common Moral Purpose for the Schools our Students Deserve:

Our current educational system does not insist that all of our students achieve to proficiency. As a matter of practice, we give students Ds, and we accept perfunctory efforts as a result. Many schools have grading practices that confuse the issue of success against standards with point acquisition on an arbitrary 100-point scale. These practices are evidence that the public school system has not embraced the moral purpose of “proficiency for all” our students. Being trapped in a time-based system with an agrarian calendar has put a stress on teachers to “cover” material instead of insisting on learners’ demonstrating an understanding of key concepts that will allow them to be successful in future learning. The schools in our nation must examine their common moral purpose and conclude that our current system does not serve all learners well. We must change to a system that allows time to be the variable. The constant must be mastery against the standards by providing learners the resources they need.

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