Saturday, April 30, 2016

Personalized Learning: Preparing Students for Life by Developing Learner Agency

A quote from Personalized Learning website: 

Harvard professor Roland Barth has observed that in the 1950’s when young people left high school they typically knew about 75% of what they would need to know to be successful in life. Today, he predicts that young people know about 2% of what they will need to know. (Barth, R.S. (1997, March 5). The leader as learner. Education Week, 16(23). 56.) This shift is not because young people are learning less than previous generations. In fact, there is good evidence that they know much more. The force behind this change is the rapid and ever-increasing pace of change, the complexity of the world in which we live and the unpredictability of what people will need to know in the coming decades - the future for which we are preparing today’s learners. - See more at:

The school I work at has rightfully put a lot of emphasis on trying to meet the needs of individual students and differentiating. One of our core documents details what is called the Profile of a Graduate which calls for students to have the following characteristics when they graduate:

Creative - Critical - Reflective - Adaptable - Persistent

Effective - Confident - Collaborative

Aware - Ethical - Respectful - Open-Minded - Compassionate

Engaged - Responsible - Self-Directed - Inquisitive

Leader & Role Model 
Inspires - Guides

These have similar characteristics to the 21st Century Learner Skills, but are also designed to foster and develop life-long skills rather than just skills for a specific class. In the classes I teach which are project-based tech classes, there is a lot of room for being able to differentiate and individualize learning for students. So for example, some students in my Electronics Design class do not have any experience with electronics or programming. However, in the same class are students who do have advanced programming and technical skills. What I have done is to have the advanced students create learning proposals for course-related projects they want to work on. These are reviewed and then approved after some tweaking. This has allowed them to pursue interests and learn new things that challenge and inspire them, really developing learning agency within what they do. They are given a timeline to complete the project, then they present to the class. Emphasis is put on both the design and development phase, as well as having a finished project if possible. Similar proposal/projects happen in Engineering classes, Robotics, and Video Production classes. It can make the class seem a bit disorganized at times with many different projects happening at various speeds, but the students are engaged and are meeting the standards at different levels. It is a fun and authentic way to teach and develop Learner Agency and help students, learn how to learn and be persistent.

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