Class-based Solutions for Personalized Learning Developed by Five Middle School Mathematics Teachers
The Fund for Innovative Education will help middle school mathematics teachers develop a pilot of their own personalized learning programs
Personalized learning is very difficult to operate in a large classroom with students of diverse capabilities. Whether by circumstance, choice, or habit, teachers tend to use a ‘one size fits all’ curriculum in their classrooms and expect their students to navigate their way through it. In high school, especially as the five-unit classes expanded, many teachers felt they need a more clinical approach. They changed their attitude and some started using diagnostic assessments and classroom-based videos. They experienced simulations and received feedback from coaches and from their peers.
In middle school, this challenge is even more acute. Students enter middle school with large gaps between them, reflecting the different elementary schools they came from. Their classes are very large and heterogeneous, and the teachers need to get to know them quickly and diagnose their knowledge, proficiency and preferences. Some students need to do extra work with the teacher, in small groups and individually, in order to catch up with the class. Others require challenging tasks at high level, so they are not bored.
In the past few months we began a couple of learning efforts, at the foundation and at the Center for Educational Technology (CET). In these two study groups, 40 middle school mathematics teachers work together to create “Personalized Learning Plans” (PLP) for their students. They meet with experts to identify what teachers need in order to introduce and implement PLPs with their students. So far, the teachers find this approach very appealing, and they seem to be enthusiastic to experiment with it.
In order to take their learning a step forward, we consulted with the Ministry of Education. The Ministry proposed to turn together to the Fund for Innovative Education. This nonprofit organization specializes in supporting local initiatives by teachers within the formal educational system. Each year they help spur some 120 such initiatives throughout Israel in various topics and across all grade levels. In discussing our goal with them, they are now proposing a program to help a few of the teachers that participate in the learning processes, to develop and pilot test their initiatives.
Five of these teachers, whose PLP initiatives show high potential for implementation, will be selected. In the first three months, they will be trained by experts, so they can prepare to develop their initiatives. The mathematics and entrepreneurship experts will meet monthly with each teacher in individual sessions, as well as in group meetings, in order to plan the initiative and prepare it for implementation. Later on, when the school year begins, the teachers will test and continuously improve their PLP methodologies, while the experts will document, evaluate and provide feedback.
In the second year, the five teachers will be expected to share the initiative with colleagues. Each teacher will establish a learning group for 8-10 teachers, guided by the mathematics and entrepreneurship experts. They will meet monthly to study the original initiative, and each teacher will receive a development budget and be expected to tailor the initiative to their own class and implement it. The program will be guided by a study which will seek to find if and how each PLP influences students, their self-efficacy, and self-regulated learning.