So let’s dive in! This is the final post in the blog series addressing how to use the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) as a roadmap towards a deeper understanding of Personalized Learning. As Daniel explained in the previous post, he started with TKES standards that had important elements of Personalized Learning. He saved Academically Challenging (PS8) and Positive Learning Environments (PS7) for last because they are cumulative in nature. While Academically Challenging Environment evaluates what work is being done by teachers and students in the classroom, Personalized Learning Environment evaluates how that work is being done.
PERFORMANCE STANDARD 7: POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
ASK: “WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE?”
As the teacher, how do we make sure students can describe their purpose? We have to explicitly teach it to them. We build anchor charts that show the why behind what we do. We set clear goals with students based on their personal needs. We explain the purpose for an activity before students begin to work on it. Purpose must become as much of a part of the classroom conversation as the content being taught. Purpose is the foundation of all learning.
POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT = PERSONALIZED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
I will always remember the day I walked into Daniel’s office after he had an epiphany about Personalized Learning. He was laughing, pointing to something, and saying, “It’s here! The definition of Personalized Learning has been right here all along.” I looked over his shoulder to see him pointing to Positive Learning Environment on the TKES rubric. He asked me to reread the Level IV category, but swap out the word “Positive” for “Personalized”:
CO-PLANNING LEARNING WITH STUDENTS
The following year, Daniel and I discussed how to overcome the shortcomings I faced with the way I was using PBL in my classroom. He challenged me to empower my kids by actually co-planning learning with them. To be honest, I was terrified about how I would transfer ownership to my students while still making sure they mastered the standards. Daniel and I worked together to develop a co-planning learning process that could be used with or without PBL. It included many of the great elements of teaching that educators have been using for years, but hands them off to the students.
The co-planning process starts with students documenting their prior knowledge and brainstorming questions based on the standards to be learned. Next, they find and share their own resources and research the answers to the questions they develop. Finally, they decide how to share their learning, present it, and use the feedback to revise the material. The process is simple and logical, which is what makes it so effective. Instead of just teaching content, I now teach my students this learning process that we continually cycle through with each unit.
STANDARDS: ARE THEY THE CEILING OR THE FLOOR?
Now, the standards are the floor for student learning in my classroom. I actually begin each unit by showing my students the required standards. Mastering standards is no longer our goal; instead, they are more like launching points. We start with prior knowledge, misconceptions, and questions about the standard, then we go beyond them.
So ask yourself, are state standards the ceiling or the floor in your classroom?
Thank you all for taking this journey with us to discover how we can use use TKES as a guide towards a deeper understanding of Personalized Learning. A very special thank you to Daniel Hodge for creating this blog series and for inspiring me to become better for my students every day for the past several years. Let’s keep the conversation going. After all, this is only the beginning.