December 12, 2019

Atomic Moves in Personalized Learning

Barb Shuba shares her reflections on giving students ownership of learning in chemistry.

As I have begun to dive into the world of personalized learning the biggest hurdle for me has been how to merge personalized learning with a very content, standards based course like Chemistry. In the past I have tried to look for units to develop and totally emerge students with this learning style option. For some it worked but for many it was a real struggle. This year I have changed my focus, and my strategy has been to look for small or atomic changes in my classroom on a daily basis. I chose to focus on moving the sliders for feedback and the goals of the unit more toward the students. 

Yes, the activities in my classroom will still be driven by the standards for the course and the content they must master to move forward with their understanding of our world. However, I have tried to look for ways to incorporate student voice by letting them tell me what we need to clarify instead of reviewing every single question on a lab analysis. Asking students to come up with working definitions, predictions, and explanations allows for co-creation and social construction of new ideas, concepts, and understandings. The focus is on having students have a common understanding of the terms they will be using when communicating with each other as we progress through the year. Asking students to make predictions, reflect on how the periodic table is organized, become experts on the trends in the periodic table and ultimately use these skills to make a prediction about an unknown element helps the students reflect on themselves as learners, learn how to work with others, and explore the what comes next or what can we create next notion of their learning and understanding. 

This is definitely a work in progress but I am finding more success in making these small shifts everyday instead of full immersion on one or two units a year. My focus in on giving my students space to own their learning on the hopes that they will start making connections between what we do in class and things they see in our world, and begin to ask questions about what they see and start initiating their own learning.

Joe Muhlberg

Joe Muhlberg is a Learning Experience Designer at Mason High School.

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