To build learners' skills in setting and monitoring academic goals
First grade Cheltenham teacher Mac Comer is building learner agency in his students by providing them choices in both math and language arts. Mac holds an individual conference with each student, during which he guides students in reviewing what they are doing well and in choosing a new learning goal. Mac sets up stations strategically to provide students options for how they will meet their goal and a choice of exit tickets by which they can demonstrate what they have learned.
He has moved away from a "station rotation" model, in which all students pass through each station according to a schedule, to a system in which students are free to choose whichever station they want. Mac provides scaffolds for students to keep track of their choices (bingo board) and to stretch them to move out of their immediate comfort zone (VIP necklace). In this way, he is helping students develop foundational skills to become self-directed and independent learners.
"I think a lot of teachers feel elementary students need all the information given to them, or they need to be spoon fed almost. I would say if you are not willing to try new ideas, if you are not willing to push your students, you will not ever see success in your classroom. But if you’re willing to take that step, if you’re willing to be brave and bold… then you’re going to see that even kindergarten students can do the stuff we’re doing in this classroom.”
Mac discusses his process to support his first-grade students in driving their own learning by setting their own learning goals and the rationale behind it.
Students explain their goals and discuss how they are meeting those goals at the station they chose. Mac describes in more depth how he supports students in leading their own learning.
Mac reflects on changes in students' independence as learners: "At first, they wanted me to tell them everything."
Mac reflects on how his practice has evolved as students become leaders of learning and he steps more confidently into a facilitator role.
Mac was coached by Imaginarium Innovation Partner Megan Hennessy. We asked Megan for her thoughts about this 8-week journey in Personalized Learning.
What do you think went well in this cycle?
What were the major challenges you observed?
What advice do you have for a teacher who would like to implement this strategy?
Thanks to Cheltenham Elementary teacher Michael Comer and principal Felice Manzanares for their support of this study, and to Imaginarium staff Rachel Wagster and Signe Hawley who all contributed to this report.
A huge thank you to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose Next Generation Systems Intiative (NGSI) grant has been instrumental in helping Denver Public Schools design, study and scale personalized learning.