We tried something that we hope is innovative to meet learners where they are and where they need to be (including their voices). We tried something that aims to change the way we approach learning and assessment. This something also shifts thinking in terms of how reports communicate: instead of only looking backward, we made it so that reports also look forward. We created a system that allows teachers to plan better and parents to anticipate and reinforce learning more effectively.
One of the most immediate aspects of personalization is the provision of student choice, but choice has to be provided at the right level of challenge to build the appropriate skills. Teachers need to plan how they offer choice within a lesson or unit based on the academic goals each student is ready to develop. Only within this context is choice appropriate, that is, it’s not about complete free choice, it’s about choice within a space that promotes learning. One would not want to provide options that are too easy or too difficult or we risk that learning not occur. The art of teaching is understanding how and when to provide choice—all the more sophisticated when personal interest is taken into account, but this is a digression.
We started to map students’ skills in Language, Mathematics, and the Arts based on a continuum that tracks mastery of learning outcomes. When certain key skills are mapped against PYP phases of development, teachers can visualize and plan for what competencies each student has mastered. Students can move along the continuum when they have demonstrated at least three pieces of evidence of applied learning (that is, independently and after a period of time after instruction). This in itself shows growth but a growth that is driven by the student himself, at his own pace and through his own challenges and accomplishments. The teacher plans lessons based on target skills for each student, ensuring effective differentiation, but these targets are met depending on how quickly or cautiously a student masters skills.
Rather than hold students accountable for grade level expectations (where everyone is supposed to meet the same standard regardless of ability, culture, or interests), planning and reporting along a continuum means that teachers and students can monitor and control their own pace. Everyone—parents included—knows exactly which skills the learner has mastered and on skills which he is currently working. Not only does this provide transparency, but it strengthens the partnership between school and home. Most importantly, it meets the child where he is academically and provides a robust framework to nurture and measure growth. This approach also means that each student can advance at his own pace, whether it be accelerated or one that requires a bit more time. This is personalization.
We are excited about this new approach to developing, implementing, and reporting on curriculum in a way that is specific to each child. This is a significant piece that will continue to build the partnership between home and school and one that will inform each student of where it is they are, where they need to go, and critically, teach them to take ownership over their learning.