Personalizing 21st Century Education: A Framework for Student Success

EdLeaders, Leadership, Learning, Learning Design, PreK-12

The superintendent’s association is backing a powerful vision of personalized learning. Their new book Personalizing 21st Century Education opens with a vignette that includes extended learning, small group instruction, competency-based progressions, continuous assessment and adaptive learning, parent consultation, customized schedules and dual enrollment.

The book asks, “How can we raise the level of personalization in education so that each and every child learns to the highest, deepest and broadest possible levels? What existing models might we look to for guidance, insight and inspiration?”

Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, wrote the book with associate director Morton Sherman and John Brown from Alexandria City Public Schools.

The book strikes a bold premise, “We need to find ways to modify or even radically rework this existing system to more adequately address the specific, varied needs of individual students.”

The authors share a vision of personalized learning:

We envision a transformation in how children are taught and how the system organizes for learning. Each child is treated as a unique individual and his or her education beings with the development of a personalized education plan. The child is assessed in each of the subjects to be taught and, based on the assessments, integrated lesson plans are developed that builds on what the child already knows, with instructional strategies designed for his or her ability level.

The child is part of a group of students assigned to the teacher, who is responsible for devising a personalized education plan for each learner. That plan will include activities when the teacher will work with the student one-on-one. There will also be activities when the teacher will work with a small group of students who are at the same stage in terms of the material to be learned and are at the same ability level.

Taking advantage of the existing technology, students will also make sue of the appropriate devices and programs to take independent online lessons and online sessions with teachers. Those sessions could take place in the school, at home, or anywhere.

Being superintendents, the authors focus not just on next generation classrooms but systems suggesting we should, “Forget about the education system as we know it today. Reconstruct a system that focuses on teaching one student at a time.

In closing the authors share an expanded vision:

“A personalized school system places the individual learner at the center of the learning process. Every aspect of the system as a learning organization–from its written, assessed, supported, taught and learned curricula to its budget design, leadership, and delivery of student services–is purposefully and intentionally focused on maximizing the achievement of every learner. A personalized system also focuses on…the whole child. Everyone in that system is a lifelong learner committed to developing the physical, psychological, and social-emotional learning as well as the intellectual and academic success of everyone in that system. Adults as well as students are committed to their own learning process, as well as those around them.”

The authors acknowledge and discuss implications for funding, teacher preparation and governance.

The superintendents association also launched a national campaign Redefining Ready! to introduce new research-based metrics to more fully communicate readiness for college, careers and life. Read more about the campaign and listen to an interview with Dan Domenech.

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