Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Personalization: Assessment AS Learning

British Columbia created an interactive discussion guide on Personalized Learning. On page 18 of the PDF guide, they state that “student assessment is the process of gathering evidence of what a student knows, understands and is able to do and determines how well they are achieving the learning outcomes.”

I am still learning.”

The report Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind shows the focus has been on assessment of learning where teachers measure student learning after the fact. To ensure learners are acquiring essential skills such as self-regulation, a shift towards assessment as learning is required where learners evaluate and adapt their own learning. This report encouraged us to look at assessment and what it means when you personalize learning and detail the differences.

Dave Truss wrote a post: Personalization and Responsibility on his Pair-a-Dimes blog discussing  our Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization chart and assessment AS learning. He emphasized that:
"We need to personalize the learning for our educators and our students… seeing both first and foremost as learners. We can’t cookie-cutter our professional development to teachers and expect meaningful results. We can’t evaluate students based on tests with easily Googleable answers. We can develop a sense of learner responsibility by personalizing learning, making it meaningful and making it work that matters."
Back to our chart and the section on Assessment. We decided to refer back to our descriptions of assessment and how it relates to the different teaching and learning strategies.

Assessment FOR learning (Differentiation) occurs throughout the learning process. It is interactive,
with teachers:

  • aligning instruction with the targeted outcomes
  • identifying particular learning needs of learners or groups
  • selecting and adapting materials and resources
  • creating differentiated teaching strategies and learning opportunities for helping individual learners move forward in their learning
  • providing immediate feedback and direction to learners

Assessment for learning provides information about what learners already know and can do, so that teachers can design the most appropriate next steps in instruction.

Assessment OF learning (Individualization) refers to strategies designed to confirm what learners know, demonstrate whether or not they have met curriculum outcomes or the goals of their individualized programs, or to certify proficiency and make decisions about learners’ future programs or placements.

Effective assessment of learning requires that teachers provide:
  • a rationale for undertaking a particular assessment of learning at a particular point in time
  • clear descriptions of the intended learning
  • processes that make it possible for students to demonstrate their competence and skill
  • a range of alternative mechanisms for assessing the same outcomes
  • public and defensible reference points for making judgements
  • transparent approaches to interpretation
  • descriptions of the assessment process
  • strategies for recourse in the event of disagreement about the decisions

Assessment AS learning (Personalization) is based in research about how learning happens, and is characterized by learners reflecting on their own learning and making adjustments so that they achieve deeper understanding. The teacher’s role in promoting the development of independent learners through assessment as learning is to:
  • model and teach the skills of self-assessment
  • guide learners in setting goals, and monitoring their progress toward them
  • provide exemplars and models of good practice and quality work that reflect curriculum outcomes
  • work with learners to develop clear criteria of good practice
  • guide learners in developing internal feedback or self-monitoring mechanisms to validate and question their own thinking, and to become comfortable with the ambiguity and uncertainty that is inevitable in learning anything new
  • provide regular and challenging opportunities to practice, so that learners can become confident, competent self-assessors
  • monitor learners’ metacognitive processes as well as their learning, and provide descriptive feedback
  • create an environment where it is safe for learners to take chances and where support is readily available

Reporting in assessment AS learning is the responsibility of learners, who must learn to articulate and defend the nature and quality of their learning. When learners reflect on their own learning and must communicate it to others, they are intensifying their understanding about a topic, their own learning strengths, and the areas in which they need to develop further.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read
and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Alvin Toffler

Reflecting on learning as they learn increases their understanding of what they want to learn. 

Thank you Dave for sharing your perspective and reiterating why reflection and how they communicate what they know helps the learner become a better learner.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Learners Making Sense of their Learning

Thought Leader Interview: Darren Cambridge

Darren Cambridge, Ph. D. is the Senior Consultant, American Institutes for Research and Director of Connected Educator. We asked Darren some questions about Personalizing Learning since that is one of the main topics during Connector Educator Month this August.

1) Why personalize learning?  
Learning is already always personalized. People learn differently based on their strengths, passions, dispositions, etc., whether or not they are taken into account by the institutions that are tasked with helping them learn. So, a first obvious reason we need to personalize support for learning is that learning is always personalized by the learner. Even is the most standardized environment, people learn--or don't--based on large part on their identity. There are lots of other reasons, of course: It's likely to motivate deeper and and more powerful learning, it's more likely to generate products of learning that have meaning and make a difference in the world, it's more fun, and so forth. 

Ultimately, though, for me personalization is strongly linked with what it means to be a democratic society. In a genuine democracy, at least as envisioned by the tradition of deliberative democracy and publics theory, institutional power needs to be responsive to the needs and desires of the people within it. That goes for governments and citizens, but, also, I think, for students and schools. We need to provide an opportunity for students to articulate their authentic identities and take those representations very seriously in making decisions about what's taught and how. A school needs to be a deliberative system where students have a meaningful opportunity to participate. 

2) What do you see as the difference between Personalization, Differentiation, and Individualization? Please refer to our chart.
I think you capture it very well. I might quibble a bit about how differentiation is handled--there are certainly times you might want to group learners and give them shared goals even in a truly competency-based system, for example--but the terms are so often used interchangeably that a bit of oversimplification isn't really a problem. It all comes down to putting the students' distinctive identities first and organizing what we do to maximize their role in shaping the learning environment. 

It is worth emphasizing the individualized and/or differentiated instruction is certainly an improvement, often a dramatic one, over the standard model. The question is, I guess, does shifting to one of the other two open the door for true personalization or diffuse energy that would move us in that direction? 

3) What is your vision for personalizing learning?
Over the last 15 years I've done a great deal of work with eportfolios. They've stayed compelling for me for so long because they offer a means for individual learners to share and shape their unique history, commitments, and aspirations through authentic of evidence of their experiences integrated across context--formal and informal, in and out of school, across subjects, and so forth. But that individual portrait of the learner isn't done in isolation. Rather, it's often framed in terms of a shared language about what we value, whether that's a set of learning outcomes, professional standards, competencies, or values. These shared categories serve as boundary objects that allow us to connect individual experience with collective action. 

I love the idea of enabling learners to make sense of their learning using more and more varied evidence. One of the things that intrigues me about the growth of learning analytics is that, done right, it could give students new ways to see patterns in their learning and to discuss them with teachers and others who are supporting them. We see this already outside of school in, for example, the quantified self movement. For teachers, too, learning analytics could help them more efficiently see patterns that allow them to understand and respond to individual student learning and identity. Data-driven decision making and personalization need not be at odds if computers' amazing ability to find patterns in complex data sets is used as a heuristic for sense making and decision making, rather than as a brute force replacement for engaging and honoring human experience and expertise. 
"I love the idea of enabling learners to make sense of their learning using more and more varied evidence."

4) How do you see schools moving from traditional instruction to Stage One and beyond?
I think it's got to be both bottom up and top down. Teachers likely can take steps towards personalization independently in their own classrooms in all but the most regimented schools, and without some of that local innovation, a larger scale initiative is likely to go no where. However, to move beyond just isolated practice, leaders need to identify where personalization is begin, nurture it, and put policies into place that help it spread. I think there's the same relationship between building and district or state level leadership. Top down initiatives are only likely to be effective if personalization is taking root at the school level in some places, but making it standard practice likely requires systemic support and policy reform that LEAs and SEAs can offer. 

Another key factor is assessments. There are so many incentives currently to be driven by test results, that I worry that mainstream personalization may not be possible until we institutionalize the kinds of innovative assessments that are being developed to align with the principles of personalized learning. I'm not optimistic that that will happen anytime soon, although it's possible the growing opposition to high stakes testing may accelerate change. 
I don't think we'll get what we need from PARC and Smarter Balance. The early word on their plans suggests that the resulting assessments may make individualization easier easier but not necessarily personalization.  

5) What type of school culture is needed for personalized learning?
I think you need to move toward a school culture that's democratic, caring, inquiry-focused, genuinely social, that enacts participatory leadership. There needs to be a tolerance for messiness and frankness and a willingness to constantly be iterating towards something that works. Building trust is huge, and that takes time and lots of reflection in dialog at all levels.  

6) How do the roles change for teachers and learners in a personalized learning environment?
As I moved towards increased personalization in my own teaching at the university level, students gained a great deal of agency but along with that came responsibility, and that's a real change for students used to a rigidly teacher-driven environment. I think many educators getting started with personalization as surprised when students resist--Aren't I making it possible for them to do what matters to them, and should they be head over heals about it?--but it take a while to unlearn expectations about how school is supposed to work. It's likely even more of a challenge in K12 than higher education. For teachers, it of course means given up some control, but, when that's done genuinely and with a sustained commitment I know teachers who wouldn't say they develop a richer and more rewarding relationship with students. 

7) How do you see leaders needing to be prepared to lead the change to a personalized learning environment?
Leaders have to be willing to give up some control, question assumptions, honor complexity, and productive engage the inevitable backlash. I worked for many years on promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the key shift from being just a good teacher to being a scholar of teaching is to begin to take an inquiry approach to teaching: What do I want to better understand about how kids learn what I'm teaching, and how do I design my practice so that I gain more understanding and measure what what works in a way that helps me understand why? The same shift has to happen for leaders: Leaders need to see cultivating the shift to personalized learning as an inquiry process. What does it look like for these students, for this school? What do we need to understand better and how can we direct our innovation is a way that helps us gain that understanding? 

8) How do you envision Communities of Practice supporting personalized learning environments?
I think they have can play a role within such learning environments in at least two ways, and I think they can also work across them. First off, communities of practice work according to principles strongly aligned those of personalized learning: Their agenda is set by the members, knowledge is co-created out of sharing individual practice in a social context designed to support that sharing, and the definition of success can be reframed according to the path the community takes together. So, they are a logical space for making personalized learning social. Second, communities of practice can create one of the spaces for deliberative dialog mediated by rich representations of individual experience about what and how students should learn and how schools should work. In the best COPs, members develop a really strong understanding of each other's histories, dispositions, strengths, etc., that can enable the deliberative decision making process to take greater account of the whole person. Finally, communities of practice, particularly online communities of practice, can link educators across schools, districts, states, and globally. Doing personalized learning pervasively and well is still pretty new in K12 in the United States, and we need to figure out ways to circulate and articulate promising practices as well as reduce the isolation of early adopters. The research suggests that online communities of practice are one powerful means for doing that. 

Darren Cambridge 

Darren Cambridge, Ph.D., is senior consultant at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC, where he serves as project director and principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative. He was previously a faculty member at George Mason University, a director at the American Association for Higher Education, and a fellow with EDUCAUSE.

He co-leads the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research and serves on the board of the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning. He has developed technical specifications IMS Global Learning Consortium and open source software through the Sakai Foundation. His work appears in a range of scholarly journals and books. He is author of Electronic Portfolios for Lifelong Learning and Assessment (Jossey-Bass, 2010), which won the MacArthur Foundations’ Digital Media and Learning Faculty Prize in 2012.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Connected Educator Month

What’s the buzz in education for 2012-13?

Get in the know without going anywhere you don’t want to during Connected Educator Month this August, a unique all-online opportunity to take control of your professional development, with a little help from your friends and many of education’s leading lights. Featuring events and activities ranging from starter kits to contests and challenges, from the US Department of Education and more than 60 of the nation’s leading education organizations, communities, and companies (including ours), we hope you’ll never feel more connected and supported heading into the new school year!

Personalized Learning is a major focus for the month of August during Connected Educator Month (CEM).

We want to invite you to participate in the events for Connected Educator Month. The Kickoff is Wednesday, August 1st. Check the calendar of events at the Connected Educator Kickoff. 

Wednesday, August 1st Kickoff Events

11am EST: A panel and open discussion about peer-to-peer professional development. Panelists include Judi Fusco, Scott McLeod, Howard Rheingold, and Tom Whitby

5pm EST: A special online panel about Connected Learning and The State of Education Today featuring all of the past and present directors of the US Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology, including John Bailey, Karen Cator, Tim Magner, Susan Patrick, and Linda Roberts,

Thursday, August 2nd   Personalizing Learning  - Join us in the conversations

1:00 pm EST -
Connected Education and Serving Every Student from Gifted to Special Needs
Serving every student (From Gifted to Special Needs)- how connecting educators could help in this effort.
Panelists: Jenifer Fox (invited), Kathleen McClaskey, Lisa Nielsen, with Tracy Gray as moderator

Blackboard Collaborate Room Link: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=M.05C549225B8D3EC051635E42A80EA8

3:00 pm EST - It's Personal: Personalized Learning for Students and Educators
Learn how teacher and learner roles change when you personalize learning.
Panelists: Mimi Ito, Nicole Pinkard, Barbara Bray, Steve Nordmark with Darren Cambridge as moderator

Blackboard Collaborate Room Link: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=M.06435C17C14CDE1D259AAF679F1001

Join us in our Personalize Learning Blog Series

August 9 - Thursday, 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Session 1: Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization

August 16 - Thursday, 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Session 2: The Stages of Personalized Learning Environments

August 23 - Thursday, 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Session 3: The Missing Piece: The Learner

August 30 - Thursday, 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Session 4: Racing to the Top to Personalize Learning

Whenever you share about Connected Educator, use their hashtag #ce12 and our hashtag #plearnchat.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Racing to the Top to Personalize Learning

The new Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition means that a district must address Absolute Priority 1 and identify one of the Absolute Priorities 2-5 that applies for the LEA or a consortium of LEAs. Absolute Priority 1 focuses on creating personalized learning environments. What does that mean for you as a teacher, a school, or a district?

Absolute Priority 1, Personalized Learning Environment(s)


The four core educational assurance areas in Race to the Top - District competition is to create student-centered learning environment(s) that are designed to:
  1. significantly improve teaching and learning through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for teachers and students that are aligned with college- and career-ready standards;
  2. increase the effectiveness of educators, and expand student access to the most effective educators in order to raise student achievement;
  3. decrease the achievement gap across student groups;
  4. and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

The RTT-D competition is for LEAs that have the leadership and vision to move beyond the one-size-fits all models, are concerned about inequity for their diverse student population, and are looking at student-focused approaches. Technology levels the playing field for learners, yet just putting technology in the hands of teachers and learners isn’t enough. To be college- and career-ready and to raise the achievement gap across all groups of learners, learners need to know how they learn best and teachers need to understand how their roles will change. Let’s review the wording stated on Ed.gov’s website:

“They (teachers) will organize around the goal of each child demonstrating content and skills mastery and credentialing required for college and career and will allow students significantly more freedom to study and advance at their own pace - both in and out of school. As importantly, they will create opportunities for students to identify and pursue areas of personal passion-- all of this occurring in the context of ensuring that each student demonstrates mastery in critical areas identified in college- and career ready standards.”

When learners have the freedom to advance at their own pace in and out of school, pursue their passions and demonstrate mastery of learning, school and the classroom will look different. It is a complete culture shift. Roles change. Teachers are a facilitator, advisor, and/or guide moving the learner toward their learning goals. The term “students” implies being taught to by their teacher. We use the term “learner” instead of students because we believe that learning starts with the learner. This is the shift we are talking about.

Learners will design and monitor their progress of their learning plans. Teachers will have learning plans and have support of coaches, mentors, and each other. Learners will work independently and collaboratively with other learners on-site and online. They will be more of a partner in learning with their teacher and receive ongoing input and feedback from their teacher and peers. Teachers will develop lessons that match to Common Core as part of a larger Community of Practice where they learn, connect, and share with other teachers.

Learning looks and feels different. Technology provides easy access to resources, data, and collaborative tools. Technology helps personalize learning, but the role of the teacher is what will make the difference. This move to personalize learning from the learner’s point of view changes teacher education and professional development. Minimum high school graduation requirements will change. Assessment strategies will change. The connection between school, the community, and higher ed will change.

This culture shift is big. LEAs can apply but may not be aware of the consequences of designing a personalized learning environment that continues to be mostly teacher-directed. We invite you to refer to the Three Stages of Personalized Learning Environments. Most schools are still in a traditional teacher-directed environment. We see that moving to Stage One is a big culture shift for most teachers and administrators. It is more than flipping the classroom, going 1:1, or allowing learners to rotate around the classroom. In Stage One, the teacher role involves letting go so there is more learner voice and choice. Some schools may be ready for Stage Two that is learner-centered, but that takes time, a shared vision where everyone is on board, being okay about taking risks, learning from failure, and having a community built on trust.

We believe that RTT-D can be successful so all learners are college- and career-ready. We can support your school or district by...
  • assisting with the writing of your proposal for the RTT-D competition.
  • involving all teachers in understanding what college- and career-ready means.
  • providing research and resources on personalized learning environments.
  • ensuring all teachers identify where they are currently and facilitating a shared vision of where they want to be as it relates to personalizing learning.
  • visiting models of personalized learning either on-site or virtually.
  • opening discussions so teachers are able to share concerns, do action research, and showcase what is working.
  • partnering with higher education to develop pilot projects involving pre-service and practicing teachers.
  • providing models of lessons and activities that encourage learner voice and choice.
  • demonstrating how learners can identify how they learn best.
  • redesigning lessons and the classroom so learners access the resources that are appropriate for them, engage with the information and express what they know so it best reflects who they are and how they learn best.
  • developing teachers and learners as partners in learning so learners are more responsible for their learning.
  • creating community partnerships so learning is experiential and can be extended learning opportunities.
  • reviewing and designing assessment strategies so learners can demonstrate mastery with evidence of learning in the form of ePortfolios. 

Contact Us for any questions about personalizing learning and writing a proposal for RTT-D.

Blog Series #4 on Connected Educator: Go to this discussion to answer: 
What does RTT-D mean for you as a teacher, a school, or a district?
How does personalizing learning s
ignificantly improve teaching and learning?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Missing Piece: The Learner

For over a decade, the conversations have been about leaving no child behind with teachers analyzing data to develop better instructional strategies. This resulted in teachers teaching to the test which actually may have only slightly increased test scores yet decreased motivation and engagement.
What is the missing piece in these conversations?
The Learner

Learners today are very different than learners from five years ago. First graders have already been exposed to many multi-sensory learning experiences for most of their lives. They develop their language by listening, speaking and being read to. Many of these young learners have already had access to digital books, educational programs on television, and interactive apps. Learning starts way before they enter school. Just watch a toddler use an iPad. They know how to open an app, view and enlarge images, and use a slingshot in Angry Birds. They figured it out by themselves. It is part of their digital DNA. They are even teaching their parents how to use mobile devices. Teachers no longer have to be the content and technology experts. With technology, learners can find what they need to learn and know at anytime from anywhere. Teachers help learners develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

The only way to reach these new types of learners is to transform teaching and learning to a learner-centered environment. Teaching changes. Roles change. Learners take more ownership of their learning. Teachers are the guides and facilitators of learning. This is a huge culture shift.

For learners to own and drive their learning, teachers and learners need to know how the learners learn best. This means understanding how learners prefer to...
  • access content and information.
  • engage with the information.
  • express what they know and understand.

Teachers and learners become partners in lesson design. Learners take on more responsibility for their learning when they have a voice and choice in how they learn. Teachers step back and advocate for each learner. Learners are more motivated to learn. Learners are teaching each other. Teachers are learning from the learners.   

The learner will be part of the daily conversations from now on:
no longer The Missing Piece.

Questions to consider when moving to a learner-centered environment:

Who are the learners today?
How do learners learn best?
How do we meet the needs of all learners in the classroom every day?  
What is the new role of the teacher?
How is the role of the learner changing?
Why is there a culture shift with these new roles?
How can teachers and learners be partners in lesson design?
How will teachers prepare to be the guide and partner in learning?
How will learners express their understanding of what they know?  
What learning environment will be created for these learners?