Earlier this year, the Highlander Institute, The Learning Accelerator and The Christensen Institute teamed up to bring together a conference on blended and personalized learning in Providence, R.I. The goal of the event was to focus on the practical elements of blended learning and personalized learning by surfacing the tactics that teachers and leaders from around the country were deploying on the ground.

These tactics are highlighted in the report, From maverick to mainstream: Takeaways from the 2017 Blended and Personalized Learning Conference, out this week. Seven key tips surfaced from innovators at the convening:

#1 Modify Models to Expand Relationships and Collaboration

For teachers and school leaders with sound processes for a blended-learning program in place, they are looking for ways to double down on teacher-student relationships. For example, Jonathan Hanover of Roots Elementary in Colorado described how his school has wrestled with balancing personalization with the communal experience of school. The school’s original instructional model included four academic content experts and a Habits of Success coach to maximize its ability to customize every student’s learning experiences across various subjects. “Out of the gate, we optimized too much for personalization and have since iterated on the model to find a better balance between the individual and the community,” Hanover said.

#2 Go Slow to Go Fast When Implementing Competency-Based Models

#blendedlearning early-adopters share 7 critical lessons learned @ChristensenInst

When pushing the needle toward competency-based learning approaches, leaders stressed the importance of earning community buy-in. “We epically failed in our first year by rolling out a competency-based report card without talking to parents, and they were incredibly angry and vocal about it,” Erin Mote of Brooklyn LAB Charter School said. “We called an all-school town hall the next week to both explain and to provide a traditional report card alongside a more competency-based one.” Mote advised schools to think of a competency-based learning approach as a multi-year plan. “Find a way to work within the existing [student] schedule in year one…You have to hold some things constant in order to have license to innovate.”

#3 Make Students Agents of Their Learning

Although blended and personalized models may begin to better customize to students’ needs and strengths, not all such models provide students with voice and choice. Leaders in the field are taking deliberate steps to increase student agency.

For example, in Mineola Public Schools in New York, leaders reframed their assessment system to focus on agency. “We don’t want to just grade students. We want to recognize students when they exhibit ‘habits of mind’ behavior,” said Michael Nagler. When students demonstrate success in a new standard, they earn badges, which incentivize learning and also ensure that each step of student learning is accompanied by meaningful feedback.

(Next page: 4 more must-knows from blended learning experts)


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