As education continues to change, so does the way we teach and how our students learn. Instead of the teachers being the holder of all information, our students now have the resources to drive their own learning. Personalizing learning for students allows students greater opportunities to control their learning and search for what suits them, and my Virtual Tour event focuses on what personalized learning looks like at Mason High School.
As we make these changes in learning, we need to make sure we are purposefully following specific steps so our staff and students are successful. Here are six steps leaders must take in order to successfully shift to personalized learning.
- Gotta Believe It to See It
If you are going to personalize learning in your district, it needs to be embedded in your beliefs and mindset. Do your research and make sure it is the right fit for your students and staff. Collect data and feedback from all of your stakeholders on their thoughts on personalized learning. Contact the experts in personalized learning to help you create a plan on how you will provide professional development. At Mason City Schools, we have worked with Alison Zmuda throughout the last few years to work with administrators and staff so we could introduce personalized learning in a thoughtful, organized manner. The key behind making personalized learning successful in your district is making sure it is a part of everyone’s vision.
- Be Methodical in Your Approach
While change is hard work, it also requires patience. To be successful, you need to spend a lot of time planning your approach to integrating personalized learning. This process can’t be rushed. Collect data, solicit feedback, and have purposeful meetings to create your plan. At Mason, we had selected cohorts of teachers from different grade levels and content levels lead the learning throughout the district. These staff members received professional development before the school year began and were prepared for the new year. Planning is essential for every administrative team to complete in order to set the teachers up for success during the year.
- You Win With People
The famous quote by former Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes still stands the test of time. You need to have the right people in place in order for personalized learning to be successful. Having the proper support in place provides resources to your students and staff to ensure progress. It’s important to place people in support positions who are passionate about personalized learning. They will do the necessary homework to generate ideas, find answers for staff, and coach students and staff to successfully implement personalized learning. Providing help with consistent check-ins will help ensure a successful transition.
- Build It and They Will Come
It is important to create the time and place for staff to get help and grow in their knowledge and delivery of personalized learning. Take a look at your bell schedule and different spaces in your buildings where you may be able to make some changes. Create time in your schedules where staff can collaborate and learn from each other. Get creative with different spaces and see if you can make a space where your cohort can gather and gain inspiration.
- Celebrate Small Victories
Share and recognize successful personalized learning experiences. It is important for staff members and students to see what success looks like. Take time during staff meetings and in your weekly staff communications to share the great things going on with personalized learning. Let students share their experiences too. Have discussions and studies on changing practices such as homework, assessments, and grades, and encourage teachers to make changes.
- Get Feedback From Your Stakeholders
Collect data from staff, students, and parents on how personalization is going. Feedback is essential to making improvements. Share the feedback with your stakeholders. Let them know what is going well and where there are opportunities for growth. Transparency in the process of change allows others to stay aware of what is taking place and what the district plans to do with the feedback.
As we make shifts in education, it is important to follow the steps discussed above to provide a solid foundation for change. It’s our job as leaders to help our staff and students adapt to the changes by providing guidance and support.
This blog is part of NASSP’s Virtual Tour Series. Be sure to tune in to Facebook on November 13 at 9:05 a.m. (ET) to participate in the live tour. Jamie Richardson will also be leading the #PrinLeaderChat on Twitter on November 17 at 9:00 p.m. (ET).
Bobby Dodd is the principal at Mason High School in Mason, OH. He was a 2016 NASSP Digital Principal Award winner. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @bobby__dodd.