The path to personalization is simple in theory. It begins by recognizing several ideas: that all students have excellence inside them to discover and develop; that competence across a range of skills is necessary equipment for life; that personal fulfillment also requires communal lessons. It may even sound not too different from education as it has always been.
The differences arise in the execution: the student’s pathway through school is shaped very much by the pace at which he or she learns; individual emphasis on a student’s strengths and passions will be much more evident, and much more possible, mainly because of technology; the information and skills the student acquires will come from hundreds of different sources, and not primarily from the teacher attached to the student. The teacher will be the guide – a source of inspiration and wisdom, rather than knowledge.
We have a personalization team that is working on how we will become a more personalized school. The team consists of Alison Galloway (Junior School), Tanya Lee (Middle School), Susan MacDonald (Senior School) and Richard Curry (Senior School). One of the tasks that each member of the team has undertaken this year is to visit a school that has gone down a particular pathway of the personalized journey. In most cases, but not all, these schools are simpler places than SMUS, where we aim to provide a comprehensive education that pursues academic success, develops character, and educates the whole student.
Tanya Lee, the Middle School member of the Personalization Team, visited MC2 School in Manchester, New Hampshire. Here is a summary of her visit:
If personalized learning could be measured on a 10-point scale, MC2 School is a 64. Firstly, students begin to develop a learner profile through a number of assessments. These results are tracked in their digital portfolios. Based on their learner profile assessments, students receive strategies that cater to their specific needs, and then they begin to choose ways in which they can develop areas that require growth. Students do not receive grades nor are they put in grades. Rather, they move through phases based on competencies. Students must demonstrate competency, not only in content knowledge, but skills and habits of mind and being. Students choose how they will acquire certain competencies, whether it be through a self-designed field trip, an internship opportunity, participation in a teacher-led learning studio, or a self-driven project. These choices make up their learner pathways. Students reflect on their progress through a 200-word reflection, also housed in their digital portfolios.
MC2 is a small school, started recently, and designed to be personalized. Many things that are part of life here at SMUS are not included there, at least not yet.
In future blog posts I will include the reflections and summaries of the other three members of our personalization team. This gives you a flavour of the ideas that are part of the discussion.