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Personalized Learning in Westonka Schools

Why are we talking about personalized learning?

In the past, many of us experienced learning in a “one size fits all” approach, which did not always value our unique learning
needs and the contributions we could bring to the learning process. In Westonka, we believe that all children possess their own
unique gifts and skills. We also know that effectively preparing students for education and career opportunities after high school
requires educators and parents to understand the changes occurring within our workforce, economy and society. It also requires
students to develop different skills than were required of past generations.

We want our students to become intrinsically motivated to learn versus learning out of compliance. This will provide our students
opportunities to become more engaged, committed, focused, independent and prepared for college, career and life. During their
educational journey in Westonka, each student needs to be challenged academically, develop strong critical thinking skills, apply
their learning to new situations, communicate effectively, be deeply engaged with their learning and become technologically
literate. Westonka Public Schools is addressing these needs by transforming how students learn and how curriculum is delivered.
Through the Westonka Personalized Learning Model, our aim is to increase student ownership and engagement with learning
and raise achievement by providing instruction that addresses students' academic needs and providing options for how students
learn and how they demonstrate mastery of concepts.

What are the goals of personalized learning?

Personalized learning is an approach to learning that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs and
interests. The Westonka Personalized Learning Model is structured around three focuses: standards-based learning, student
choice and customized learning. Through this approach to learning, our goal is to accomplish the following:

  • Create a school system that meets the needs of all students that is sustainable, effective and efficient.
  • Ensure all students are able to learn at their level of challenge.
  • Find ways to accelerate learning and provide time/space for learning that the current system does not allow.
  • Support deeper learning by students.
  • Help students develop skills to take ownership of their learning and develop a solid preparation for post-high school education and career opportunities.


What are the specific instructional strategies of personalized learning?

A variety of instructional strategies make up the Westonka Personalized Learning Model based on the ages of the students, the
academic discipline and the needs of the students. What is key to emphasize is that not all strategies are used in classrooms at
all times. Self-pacing of learning is sometimes equated to personalized learning; however, it is actually only one component of
this model and should only be implemented when it benefits students. There are actually many strategies of the Personalized
Learning Model, including the following:

Standards-Based Learning

  1. Standards-Based Grading - Student learning is measured by demonstrating progress towards mastery of standards.
  2. Frequent Feedback - Student assessments through quizzes, observations and conferencing are used by teachers to provide
    feedback and guide student learning.
  3. Instructional Intervention - Intentional support for learning is provided to students based on their specific needs.

Student Choice

  1. Learner Profiles - Students are encouraged to add their ideas and thoughts to the learning process (i.e., student voice) and
    study areas of passion as related to learning targets.
  2. Differentiated Instruction and Assessments - Students have opportunities to learn and demonstrate their learning in a
    variety of ways. For example, learning can be completed through teacher instruction, teacher-created videos and digital
    curriculum. Student can show mastery of learning through paper/pencil tests, performance assessments or projects.
  3. Performance and Project-Based Assessments - Students demonstrate learning through performance and project-based
    assessments that apply academic concepts to real-life applications.

Customized Learning Path

  1. Anytime, Anywhere Learning - Learning is no longer confined to just the classroom. With technology, students can learn in a
    variety of places and under a wide range of circumstances.
  2. Flexible Pacing - If mastery doesn’t occur the first time a student is exposed to the material, he/she is given another
    opportunity to learn it. Learning it is more important than learning it fast.
  3. Learner Independence - Students develop the skills and capacity to take purposeful initiative, set goals and make choices in
    their learning.

The key to this focus is knowing our students - their gifts, skills, strengths and gaps in learning, how they learn, their passions,
their interests and, most importantly, knowing them as individuals. With that knowledge, we can implement different
personalized learning strategies appropriately and at different levels of support to meet our students' needs in a learning
environment that is purposeful and meaningful to our students.


 

Mark Femrite
femritem@westonka.k12.mn.us
(952) 491-8002