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Achieving equity is not just about addressing the underachievement or disengagement of particular groupings of students and communities and bringing everyone closer to a single normative standard of what counts as success. This is particularly important given the arguments that currently accepted markers of success in education probably do not adequately reflect the kinds of learning that are needed for the demands of the 21st century. Diversity encompasses everyone's variations and differences, including their cultures and backgrounds.

Alongside this is another different but related imperative. Doubts about the ability of existing paradigms to solve current social, environmental and economic challenges mean that a future-focused education system must provide learners with past paradigms and the ability to think between, outside and beyond them-that is, the ability to work with a diversity of ideas. It is argued that future-oriented learning should provide all young people with opportunities to develop these capacities.

One of the biggest challenges for education in the 21st century is that our ideas about curriculum are currently underpinned by at least two quite different epistemologies , or models of what counts as knowledge. The first view is the "traditional" idea of knowledge as content , concepts and skills selected from the disciplines to form the "subjects" or "learning areas" of the school curriculum. From this point of view, the learner's job is to absorb and assimilate that knowledge into their mind and demonstrate how well they have done this through various means of assessment.

It is assumed that this knowledge will be stored up for later use during the learner's life. In this view, knowledge is seen as something that does things, as being more energy-like than matter-like, more like a verb than a noun. Knowledge, in the Knowledge Age, involves creating and using new knowledge to solve problems and find solutions to challenges as they arise on a "just-in-time" basis.

These ideas about knowledge have emerged in the world outside education-driven in large part by economic, social and political changes, often facilitated by new technologies. The Knowledge Age literature argues that reproducing existing knowledge can no longer be education's core goal, because a it is no longer possible to determine exactly which knowledge people will need to store up in order to use it in their lives after school, and b the "storing up for future use" model of knowledge is no longer useful or sufficient for thinking about how knowledge is developed and used in the 21st century.

Instead, the focus needs to be on equipping people to do things with knowledge , to use knowledge in inventive ways, in new contexts and combinations. An individual's stock of knowledge is important as a foundation for their personal cognitive development: however, for it to be useful as a foundation for their participation in social and economic life, the individual must be able to connect and collaborate with other individuals holding complementary knowledge and ideas.

What this means for the school curriculum is a shift in what is "foregrounded".

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Instead of simply assuming these capacities will be developed through engagement with disciplinary knowledge the traditional view , there is a shift to focusing on the development of everyone's capabilities to work with knowledge. From this point of view, disciplinary knowledge should be seen, not as an end in itself, but as a context within which students' learning capacity can be developed.

Tell Me About … / A Personalized-Learning Challenge

While the use of the term "learning areas" in The New Zealand Curriculum 9 NZC document signals this, it is clear that this has not changed underlying thinking for many educators. It seems clear that the work of building a 21st century education system must involve supporting educators-and the public-to understand the paradigm shift in the meaning of such apparently common-sense terms as "knowledge" and "learning", and how this might change the way curriculum is interpreted into learning and teaching experiences.

Twenty-first century ideas about knowledge and learning demand shifts in the traditional roles or "scripts" followed by learners and teachers. If the purpose of schools is not to transmit knowledge, then teachers' roles must be reconceived. Similarly, if the learner's main job is no longer to absorb and store up knowledge to use in the future, then learners' roles and responsibilities also need to be reconceived.

Downloadable list of personalized learning strategies

This calls for a greater focus on recognising and working with learners' strengths, and thinking about what role teachers can play in supporting the development of every learner's potential. The idea of changing the scripts for learners and teachers is often shorthanded with phrases such as "student-centred pedagogies" or "student voice", alluding to the need to engage learners and their interests, experiences and knowledge in many decisions about their learning. However, the idea of sharing power with learners can be met with resistance, particularly if this is interpreted as an "anything goes" approach in which learners are given complete freedom to set the direction for their learning.

The challenge is to move past seeing learning in terms of being "student-centred" or "teacher-driven", and instead to think about how learners and teachers would work together in a "knowledge-building" learning environment. This is not about teachers ceding all the power and responsibility to students, or students and teachers being "equal" as learners.

Rather, it is about structuring roles and relationships in ways that draw on the strengths and knowledge of each in order to best support learning. All of the principles discussed above suggest that teachers, school leaders, educational policy leaders and other adults supporting young people's learning need particular attributes and capabilities that enable them to work effectively towards a future-oriented learning system.

It is important to note that some of the approaches advocated for 21st century learning-and the ideas that underpin them-may differ from what today's teachers, school leaders and educational policy leaders experienced in their own school learning. Teachers and school leaders may resist adapting current approaches if they don't see the need for change, or if they aren't convinced that adapting current approaches is possible, let alone likely to lead to better student outcomes.

It is important to note here that many "21st century" ideas about what meaningful learning looks like, and how to support it, are actually not new. They have been around for a very long time and are well supported and practised by many teachers.

The challenge here is how to achieve a system shift that creates a more coherent educational ecology that can support what is known about good learning and that can accommodate new knowledge about learning and, importantly, new purposes for learning in a changing world. This means that education systems must be designed to incorporate what is known about adult learning and cognitive development as well as what is known about young people's learning and development. This has implications for thinking about professional learning approaches and structures for teachers and school leaders: Are adults in the education system able to access the kinds of learning supports that they need in order to be the best leaders for a future-oriented learning system?

Learning for the 21st century, it is argued, should support students to engage in knowledge-generating activities in authentic contexts.

Students must learn to recognise and navigate authentic problems and challenges in ways that they are likely to encounter in future learning situations. However, today many learners encounter learning situations in which the "messiness" of the real world is simplified as contrived learning tasks with answers or outcomes already known to the teacher. Teachers ought not to be the only people from whom young people learn.

A Personalized-Learning Challenge - Educational Leadership

Teachers still need strong pedagogical knowledge, but they also need to be able to collaborate with other people who can provide specific kinds of expertise, knowledge or access to learning opportunities in community contexts. A final argument associated with this theme is that education and learning systems will not have traction to shift towards more 21st century approaches if this shift is not supported by the wider community. Public education is a collective good in which everyone has a stake. To do both requires community understanding of, support for and contribution to what is being attempted.

They were split into groups to discuss the dimensions and capabilities, why they were important and how they could be made to work at their school. Discussion of the book has filtered beyond the professional development day itself and into the regular conversations about leadership. All notes from the day were loaded onto a shared OneNote so they could be reflected on and added to as the year progressed. Leach also uses questions related to the dimensions and capabilities in his weekly meetings with leaders and in the reflection and review meetings held with the leadership team each term.

The dimensions are working well in this school. They were a good fit to begin with; as a Microsoft mentor school, the dimensions and capabilities were well aligned with some of the Microsoft competencies around personalised learning, collaboration and self regulation. Dimension three, for example, has impacted on the way leaders use data.

The school is now using data mentoring for students to help them understand end interpret their data to inform subject choices for NCEA.

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A parent portal allows access to student data in real time. It is also helping review the staff appraisal system by encouraging teachers to start thinking about using data to inform and change their practice. It is, by both accounts, a book that is accessible, but also possesses the ability to challenge and change existing leadership practices. It is very precise in its challenge. Leave this field empty. Email address:. By subscribing, you accept our website terms of use and Privacy policy. Already have an account? Enter the username or e-mail you used in your profile.

A password reset link will be sent to you by email. Education Central. Hit or miss? The challenge of targeting. And when they do all of this, they also almost always achieve more. We cannot teach our students the way we have been taught. The traditional model of education, born in the industrial age with a one-size-fits-all approach, does not meet the needs of our modern economy. Today information is easily accessible, but what we do with it, how we use it and how we apply it is the challenge. We do not need to teach our students to memorize facts, we need to teach them to use facts to solve problems.

So the focus of our classrooms needs to change. What we want to teach and how we teach needs to be better suited to the world of work our students will enter. And personalized learning enables us to do this. It gives us a new approach to teaching that better prepares students for the connected age in which we now live.

Enlarged City School District of Middletown, NY - Middletown wanted to close a persistent achievement gap between white and minority students, between students in and out of poverty. The district wanted to be the premier district in their area to provide innovative programs, districtwide technology, and personalized instructional models to meet the needs of their students. Syracuse City School District, NY - Syracuse wanted to improve student engagement, achievement, and support social-emotional learning. By aligning project-based learning and personalized learning initiatives, and focusing on implementation, they feel that they are creating future ready students.

Fairbanks North Star Borough, AK - Despite facing the unique challenges of being an isolated, rural community, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in Alaska committed themselves to preparing students for 21st-century technology and careers. Still looking for more information to make the case for personalized learning? Personalized learning can be a powerful tool for educators seeking to provide equitable outcomes for students. Equity can be the driver that empowers PL tactics and associated instructional models in our efforts to provide all students equitable access to not only grade-level content and skills but also equitable opportunities to achieve their very best.

Having said that, equity is not an inherent part of PL. The teacher who personalizes learning experiences for students must be the one who actively applies an equity lens to their work. Simply using a station-rotation model will not automatically lead to more equitable outcomes for students. Educators and educational leaders engaged in this work must intentionally use an equity lens to give driving purpose to personalizing learning for students.

This, in turn, influences how we use personalized learning frameworks and instructional practices, as well as how educators and students perceive this work. And while school leaders and teachers may understand that they are being asked to focus on different instructional strategies, such as more small group instruction or flipped teaching, they may not be able to articulate why they are taking these new approaches.

Without a clear vision and narrative, district leaders have trouble identifying early wins or proof points of success that would help them increase buy-in and offer exemplars of good practice. Often, district curriculum coaches and school-based instructional coaches are missing from initial conversations around planning, design, and professional development.


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The lack of clarity can often lead to a compliance mindset among school leaders and teachers. Schools that adopt a compliance mindset also frequently miss the opportunity to increase student choice, to offer additional pathways for student learning based on need, or to rethink how to personalize their professional development for teachers. Some districts also fail to build internal capacity at the district level to communicate, coordinate, or support the work. For example, they defer to vendors or consultants to fully own the messaging and delivery of training and do not build district capacity to support work.

As a result, the district may have a few shining stars at the classroom level, but limited examples of excellent, whole-school shifts to personalization.