“I observed fourth graders deeply and passionately learning about measuring velocity from AP high school students, and I could not find one student who was a spectator, let alone a skeptic."
I tour school districts around the country, and each time I make a very intentional effort to observe key behaviors of both teachers and students. Here is one that I find particularly interesting.
In a great legacy classroom (for the sake of creating context, I will call these "command and control" classrooms), content and teachers are front and center. In every classroom like this, no matter the community culture, the demographics or the average AGI, I can quickly identify three main groups - the model students, the spectator students, and the skeptics. The breakdown is typically like this:
In these personalized learning environments, it is actually extremely difficult to identify these groups. In fact, during a recent tour of Swanson Elementary in the Elmbrook School District, I observed 4th graders deeply and passionately learning about measuring velocity from AP high school students (between you and I, I learned more about physics in this hour than I ever learned in my high school physics class - please don't tell anyone because these 4th graders will clearly be my boss someday!), and I could not find one student who was a spectator, let alone a skeptic.
Why? Because they were all engaged and learning at a comprehension level that was meaningful to them. Sure, the teachers certainly knew which students were able to more easily make the connection between speed and distance to measure velocity. But from the outside looking in, as these students demonstrated their knowledge through personal projects with great desire and passion, the differences in these groups disappear and something amazing happens. I witnessed an increase of courage, collaboration, critical thinking and compassion. It's truly magical.
That's the power of a personalized learning classroom.
Author: Laura Henderson
Laura is the Founder and CEO of Epiphany Learning. With over twenty years of experience as a technology executive, she is passionate about bridging modern day learning with the skills needed for modern day jobs. Laura is a mother of five school-aged children and the wife of a special education teacher.
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