Adapting for Learning – The Ladder

It’s been a week since I’ve written. That is both good and bad…I got a lot more work done this week, but now I have about 1000 ideas flying through my brain, and I have to organize some of them in order to keep functioning. This is my grandest idea out of all of them, and it will be a short series on how I think it will flesh out once I try it out.

First, some background: I’ve felt very convicted lately about what a true mastery class should look like. Right now, it is learner-centered in the sense that I am not standing up front and teaching everyone at the same time. But, I am still dictating the learning and the achievement by giving the assignments and expecting certain outcomes (ie 75% to move on). In Korea, this worked well, mainly because all of my learners were driven to do well in school. Here, in the US, I am having more of a battle with learners about their learning. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I cannot direct everyone’s learning.

But, I can help them direct their own. That’s what really spurred me to think this through a little more thoroughly. I’m calling it The Ladder.

Step 1 – Objectives. We still live in an objectives and standards-based world. I have certain topics I have to cover in my curriculum. My first step is to translate these standards into English for my learners and scaffold for them for each topic. This will be a generic form where they can see individual learning objectives that all connect back to a given state standard. This step is more for me and book keeping, but it is still good to expose the learners to standards and objectives.

Step 2 – Pre-Assessment. I am a bad pre-assessor. If I want to see changes in education that move toward measurable gains, I need to begin modeling that philosophy in my own teaching. This will simply be a multiple-choice Google Form that will give them a baseline score against the standards in the unit. I’ll be using Andy Schwen’s templates that he’s shared on his blog. Extremely powerful tools there. Again, this will be a baseline assessment to help the learner pinpoint what areas they need to focus on in their planning phase.

Step 3 – Improvement Plan. This is where the learner really begins to take control. Once they have the feedback from their pre-assessment, they can begin to craft (with guidance from me) their improvement plan to fill in the gaps. The goal here is for a personalized education for each learner that is focused on their own benchmarks and allowing for more freedom to incorporate their interests. They already have their own blog, so I’m also thinking a blog post hashing out their learning goals and strategies will help them think through the process a little bit more and add another layer of accountability.

Step 4 – Learning. This is the nitty gritty. Learners are focusing on the individual skills and benchmarks they have identified as learning goals. As long as they are hitting their objectives, it is up to them how they learn it. If they need a podcast, I am willing to help that way. If they want to find a simulation to walk through, I’m fine with that. I’d be even more fine with them finding someone that works in the field they are learning about and talking with them. This is the broadest step on the ladder and because they have the plan in place, should be the exciting part of the learning. Ultimately, I would like to learn along with them, rather than direct the learning.

Step 5 – Re-assessment. As the learner progresses through their material, re-assessment is paramount in making sure they are hitting each objective and that misconceptions are caught quickly and corrected. This is where the mastery component comes into play. Assessment, reassessment, and reassessment until the concept is well-developed and understood. I’m picturing this as a lot of conversations with me and their peers as they work to put the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Step 6 – Summative Presentation. Not necessarily a stand-up-front-and-talk presentation, but something where they demonstrate their skills. I already have tests written, so that could be one method of demonstration. They could also put a comprehensive unit (content created solely by the learner) to be used in the future. Again, I want the learner to play to their skills and show me what they have learned in one concise, comprehensive fashion.

I realize that this is an extremely ambitious plan. I’m not planning on using it for another 2-3 weeks so I can get the details and the forms put together. I would really appreciate comments and thoughts on the plan above and what you think could be done better or differently.

Update: You can read Part 2, “Planning and Implementation,” here.

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