A Principal’s Reflections: Shifting Our Practice


In my previous post, I dove into the concept of shifting our focus from “what” to “who” in order to set the stage for personalization.  The premise is as simple as it is powerful, with the goal being to provide all learners with what they need, when and where they need it, to become life ready.  While having a focus and knowledge of pertinent strategies is a good start, there needs to be an emphasis on changing practice.  Moving away from traditional approaches is not easy.  Herein lies one of the biggest obstacles to any change process.

While the transition to personalization can occur using high agency strategies as detailed in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, it is critical that the right culture is in place.  The stage is then set to implement more personalized pedagogy.  Below you will see my attempt at creating a visual that illustrates a shift in practice is not only necessary but also the benefits that will arise. 


Culture matters.  For the students and teacher to thrive, a solid foundation needs to be cultivated where voice, choice, path, pace, and place become ubiquitous elements that are leveraged seamlessly both in and out of the classroom.  Examples include flexible schedules, virtual options, learning academies, use of data, and high-functioning PLCs.  Here is where leadership is pivotal.  An equitable learning culture at the district and school level can only be created through the development of policies, procedures, and vision that result in systems geared toward supporting the uniqueness of all learners.  There also must be ongoing professional learning for teachers, coaches, administrators, and other related staff.  Traditional systems look to sustain a more equality-based approach. 

With the right culture in place, personalization can thrive as long as the right pedagogical strategies are employed.  It is important to note that this does not mean we turn a blind eye to tried and true strategies.  In fact, these represent an excellent opportunity to begin implementing high-agency strategies such as voice and choice during whole group lessons.  From here, the stage is then set to leverage blended pedagogy such as station rotation, choice activities, playlists, and the flipped approach.  It is here where student agency can be further developed through path, pace, and place (click HERE for more detailed information).  No matter the strategy used, the purpose of any personalized approach should empower learners to think and apply their thinking in relevant ways while addressing specific needs.  The exclusive use of standardized techniques will always leave some kids behind. 

Shifting away from a reliance on traditional practices to personalization will be a bumpy road at first.  Our kids, and their future, are worth the effort.



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