Performance Standard 8: Academically Challenging Environment
Student-Centered = Assessment-Driven
Think back to our previous post analyzing Assessment Uses. In Assessment Uses, we analyzed how assessment data can inform "instructional content and delivery methods" and overall "instructional decisions" made by the teacher. When our students thinking becomes the thing that informs our next steps in instruction (rather than a pacing guide, previous years lesson plans, or an instructional program) then a teacher has established a Level III, student-centered environment. Using student work to inform teaching instead of teacher assumptions is the key to maintaining an Academically Challenging Environment.
Transparency = Self-Directed Learning
Once the teacher has modeled and the student has mastered identifying where they are in a progression, then students and teachers can begin to take the next steps to personalize student learning. The criteria described in Level IV of an Academically Challenging Environment sees students who are "encouraged to set challenging learning goals." Being able to answer the question "Where am I?" is the first step in this process. This happens once the student-centered environment mentioned above has been established. The next steps involve the students asking themselves two more additional questions: "Where am I going?" and "What are my next steps to get there?" The teacher now becomes a facilitator in helping a student answer these two questions.
Going back to empowering the student, the teacher must introduce multiple strategies that might help students take their next steps in moving forward within the learning progression. As mentioned in Differentiating Instruction, teachers must provide the necessary scaffolds for this to happen effectively. This can be accomplished by using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model so that teachers can plan for scaffolds to be systematically removed. Once properly executed, then the child will own a library of strategies to a degree where they each begin to resemble habits.
Learning to Tackle in the Classroom
Then, I took a step back and realized that the important word in this phrase wasn't "materials," but instead it was "tackle." When you Google the word tackle, you see that it means to "make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task)." In a Personalized Learning Environment, a teacher's task is to empower the learner. We can do this by focusing more on how to tackle the material rather than the level of the material itself. Go back to our post on Instructional Strategies. There, we analyze how we can plan for higher-order thinking activities that accompany real-world resources. This involves teaching our students different strategies for how to explain, analyze, describe, determine, interpret, or distinguish different content standards. We must make the act of tackling just as, if not more important, than the material that they tackle. This will empower our students to "take ownership of their own learning behaviors."
I am excited to leave you with that final phrase because this "ownership" that we expect our students to take will be our focus as we analyze the final Performance Standard, Positive Learning Environment, in our next post.
I received this Tweet the other day, and it brought up a lot of thoughts that I have surrounding the topic of Personalized Learning. The reason why I do not include examples of physical documents, assessments, and specific actionable steps on how to execute the process is that I do not want to exclude any demographic of educators. One thing I have learned through many presentations surrounding this topic is the minute I show an image of a learning progression that I would use with a first or second-grade class, I immediately lose everyone who teaches children older than ten. The same goes for examples I might use of students with 1:1 technology taking formative assessments on AP Physics concepts. Imagine the people that excludes.