When I was in school there wasn’t much personalization. At some point in upper elementary school the “smart kids” were picked out and put into the “gifted and talented” program. The only way to get ahead after that was to take summer classes. The regular classes ended up with slower learners at the bottom and students who were not quite good enough for gifted and talented at the top, clearly under challenged. At the end of the year, slower learners were advanced to the next grade, despite a lack of mastery, to fall further behind. In rare cases, students were held back to repeat an entire grade. The system undermined the entire concept of scaffolding for students who needed it the most. Education doesn’t have to be run that way. While the gifted and talented program may have been on the right track in creating different levels, it was done very early, not split up enough, and basically set in stone.

Fast forward to high school where the dichotomy of regular and gifted and talented students still existed in regular and honors classes but another problem presented itself: what do you do with the advanced learners who could gain no more from the current program? It was common for seniors to have 2 or even 3 study hall periods scheduled and that time was often spent outside of the campus in pizza parlors, living rooms and parks.

The evolution of education is moving away from rigid, time-based Carnegie Units to multi-track competency-based learning driven by data and feedback from teachers and students. In an ideal competency-based system, the gifted student who took 3 hours of study hall their senior year would be able to take on more cognitive rigor in acceleration and honors components. Those students who fell behind early on would get the help they needed, when they needed it, in competency recovery and reteach components. And any student can transition seamlessly to a higher or lower track.

Part of making personalized learning a reality is using technology and data systems to deliver material and provide feedback in a blended learning model. The interactive whiteboard is replacing overhead projectors, laptops and tablets are replacing pen and paper, and virtual classrooms are offered alongside physical ones and everything is connected. In a blended-learning model, students are offered several avenues to access information. Standards such as the lecture and textbook are still used but are supplemented by online references, classes, videos and all of the other resources the Internet makes available. The boom in free online educational resources makes supplemental material easy to find and cost effective. Additionally, online classroom platforms allow teachers to administer paperless assessments with instant feedback. Teachers can track and monitor the progress of their students in real time and adjust accordingly.

The Northeast Comprehensive Center’s Regional Innovations in Learning Team is making available a new professional learning course to help districts implement competency-based instructional components in a blended learning model. The course entitled, Building Personalized Lesson Plans with Competency-Based Instructional Components, will be launched on October 1st, 2014 and run through April 30th, 2015. The course is based on Dr. Sam Redding’s work on the standard definition of personalized learning to assert a multidimensional role for the teacher and vivify the place of motivation, metacognition, and social and emotional competency in personalized learning.

This four-unit online course includes:

  • Planning for Success: Explore the meaning of personalized learning and competency-based education.
  • Designing Competency-Based Instructional Components: Through the lessons within this unit you will learn about the ‘Comprehensive Model of Personalized Learning’ as introduced by Sam Redding, Center on Innovations in Learning.
  • Developing Competency-Based Instructional Components: Through structured activities, using open source resources, we will guide participants as they design component plans within the competency-based Component Framework using the Design Principles of Personalized Learning Rubric.
  • Evaluating Competency-Based Instructional Components:  Through the lessons presented in this unit you will learn about mechanisms for collecting data on student learning and experiences through the use of competency based components.

To register for the course, please do so through the following form: http://goo.gl/RjV7iU

Contact Anushka Paul at apaul@northeastcompcenter.org for more information or support.

Eric Martin, Anushka Paul, Emily Zyko Rukobo, Regional Innovations in Learning Team

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