GUEST BLOG: Personalized Learning – Every Student on a Team

I am one of those that doesn’t get involved in basketball or March Madness until it gets down to the really competitive, final second, buzzer-beating games. After watching some of the basketball games last weekend that fit the bill, it had me thinking about how the personal learning concept is already implemented in some areas of life, especially sports.

As a former junior high basketball player I would say I was exceedingly proficient at warming the bench and man could I shoot a lay up when no one was in the lane but I had no desire to play in the big Thursday night games.

As educators, we have heard a lot about personalized learning, but what exactly is personalized learning?  “Personalized learning is a progressively student-driven model where students deeply engage in meaningful, authentic, and rigorous challenges to demonstrate desired outcomes.” Zmuda, Curtis, Ullman (Learning Personalized, 2015)

Coaches don’t have all their players fine tuning the same skills. Some players need to work on free throws, while others need to work on defense. The coach knows the ability of his players and pinpoints their practice to cover the areas needed by each team member.

All students do not need to work on the same skills. Some need more time on a skill, while others are ready to move on. In my classes students have voice and choice in co-creating their personal learning goals so every child is successful. As I started implementing personalized learning in my classroom it felt chaotic, messy, and out of control. As the coach in the classroom it is my responsibility to promote growth and build capacity in every learner so students initiate their own learning. I found myself always asking students what they were currently working on because I was letting go of structure I was accustomed to having to myself. But it has all been worth it. When students create a product that they take pride in, while working on specific goals created just for them, there is no doubt we will make it to the championship game. Barbara Bray says “learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without an over-reliance on direction and control of others.”  So, as you reflect on your teaching practices, ask yourself “Does every student have a role in the big game and what is each one of them individually doing to prepare?”

Spencer Pineda, 4th Grade Teacher
Root Elementary School
Fayetteville Public Schools

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