Reading the Words

Imagine reading a paper (Culture Shift: Teaching in a Learner-Centered Environment Powered by Digital Learning) that said this:

 Learner-centered education dramatically impacts the work of educators, and education systems and school must empower teachers to apply their pedagogical knowledge, instructional skills, and digital tools and resources to meet the needs of individual students.

So teachers should know about the science of teaching and be given the authority to determine best practices for teaching in their classrooms.

Educators are empowered to use innovative approaches and personalize learning in face-to-face, blended, or virtual environments.

Teachers empowered again to choose different approaches.

…opportunities for teachers to learn from each another and from outside experts, …

Teachers as chief learners, right?

…students who have the knowledge and ability to solve problems, think critically, collaborate with others, and communicate in a variety of media.

More important than content is teaching students to think critically, and problem solve.

Deeper learning skills:

  • Knowledge and mastery of … content

  • Critical thinking and complex problem solving

  • Effective communication

  • Collaborative work, self-direction, and incorporation of feedback

We might be able to measure mastery of content with tests, but the rest of those skills require more of an experts subjective observation.

…meeting students where they are and helping them to develop the knowledge and skills they need.

Getting to know our students and tailoring instruction to them.

For example, a student may have the option to utilize simulations or access content that is in a visual or audio format.

Note it doesn’t say teacher creates content in all possible formats but allows students to access.

…open-ended nature…problem-solving strategies and critical thinking are applied…

More thinking skills

…access to learning anytime and anywhere.

This might just require a touch of Connectivism


Imagine a public school (not just a teacher) that is flexible in terms of meeting a student’s needs.

…extend learning opportunities outside of school…

This is flexible. Will the learning I do on my own time have meaning to a public school?

Learner-centered instruction demands that teachers develop different professional roles and responsibilities.

I am willing is my administration? Is my school board?

…shift the teacher’s role from disseminator of knowledge to a facilitator of learning or “education designer.”

A teachers evaluation should not depend on how well students listen.

Formative assessments…

A formative assessment could be an observation while a student struggles with a problem and a well-timed question or comment.

Providing the student with control of his or her learning

Is this possible in public school? Does this fit with Common Core State Standards?

Eliciting student work to demonstrate understanding of specific language and concepts

This is called measurement of knowledge, or mastery of content, through a means that does not include a test. Sometimes known as allowing teachers to be professionals.

…learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration …

Meaning teachers talk about how effective they are, and what they can do better, not how poorly the students listen.

“When teachers collectively engage in participatory decision-making, designing lessons, using data, and examining student work, they are able to deliver rigorous and relevant learning for all students and personalize learning for individual students”

Teachers are part of the decision making process of education. I wonder why students and parents were left out of this process?

Professional learning communities

Emphasis on professional

These other countries dedicate significant resources to professional learning opportunities that are ongoing and sustainable and emphasize collaboration among educators.  …about 60 percent of their time in classrooms.

Done right the most important part of a teacher’s day is his or her reflection and discussion of teaching practices, not time spent in the classroom. Remember from earlier, teachers’ roles are changing. They don’t need to lecture content as much, rather they are “education designers”. They need to spend a significant amount of time thinking, talking, and designing the educational environment. After that the classroom teaching really just happens.

Professional learning: Informal …Communities of practice

Informal yet still professional.

In some cases, teachers who are early adopters of digital learning or other instructional strategies do not have peers with whom to collaborate in their own school or district, so they seek out others on social networking sites or CoPs.

Like students learning for teachers is not limited to within the school walls or what is provided by the district.

…the education system faces many challenges that can hinder the development of strong cultures in schools.

Culture is empowering teachers to be the decision makers. Allowing them to take chances and innovate. Not everything will be perfect and that is what make each child’s education right for the students.

Classrooms many not be as quiet, ad students should be working on different things at different times.

Learning is often social and noisy.

While instructional practice should be evidence based, educators need to trust that it is acceptable to try a new lesson or strategy and possible fail, and that reflection and learning will be encouraged.

Not everything is perfect. No one person or one observation should make or break a decision about the quality of a teacher. It’s a holistic thing.

The culture shift required to move toward a learner-centered model must respect teaching and what is necessary to meet the individual needs of students on a daily basis. The culture must carefully consider collaboration among teachers and the development of professional learning community among educators in which they are all working together toward the same goal.

We are a long way from this and measuring test scores is counter-productive.

  • …understanding …a learner-centered environment…

  • Empower school and district leaders to develop collaborative working environments for teachers….

  • Integrate technology and digital learning into the strategic planning…

  • Elevate the profession of teaching

Again the power of teaching is not in how much content a student masters, rather it is in setting up the best possible environment to facilitate that learning. Measuring teacher quality through student test scores is counter-productive. Instead we should be measuring teacher quality through their ability to adapt to specific situations in their classrooms. This requires close observation over long periods of time. It requires collaboration among equals. It requires teachers to be allowed to make mistakes and honestly implement reforms that may or may not work the first time. reforms that may have to be reevaluated and changed depending on the circumstances. Basically the best teachers are those who are continually changing practices and implementing new ideas based on individual circumstances.


I just think if a group is going to say what we want to do but then later implement practices contrary to the stated philosophy then perhaps we should point to their words and hold them to it.



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Differentiated Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I’ll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Differentiated Education

May 6, 2008 – 6:14 am by Brendan

This article started with a blog article by Mathew Nedleman on differentiated education. Differentiation is one of the biggest buzz words out there in education. Depending on who you are talking to, differentiation can mean a lot of different things. It can be anything from the silver bullet that saves education, to the biggest waste of time and money in education. At the core though, differentiation means just what it sounds like it means, adjusting education to meet the needs of individual learners.

Many current educational programs make reference to, or at least consider Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In essence, this says that all people have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. Differentiation is just what teachers do to take advantage of these strengths and weaknesses.

Early on, differentiated learning was mostly considered to mean creating individual education plans for every student. In actual practice, differentiated education often becomes extra work for stronger students. Today, a lot of educational funding is determined by special education students. This coupled with trends to mainstream as many students as possible effectively means, differentiated education can sometimes be heavily focused only on students who need extra help.

When a teacher or parent suspects a student would qualify for special education they can start the process of determining if said child is actually special (as if all children weren’t special). To identify a special education student, the teacher must, in most cases, refer the student to the school psychologist. To do this usually means some period of time observing the student, attempting different in-class strategies, and meetings, lots of meetings. Identified special education students are required to have individual education plans (IED). This is one kind of differentiated education.

Gifted students can also be identified. Often this is done by looking at standardized tests (required thanks to NCLB), and then taking a closer look at the top percentages. Many districts allow teacher or parent recommendations. In most cases the student will be asked to take more tests and perhaps have some interviews. These children are identified as gifted (no identity crisis here). Gifted students don’t usually have IEP’s, but usually have some note in their “permanent” file. As a side note, many schools can and do identify gifted students even if they are gifted in only one subject. If the school district is big enough, gifted students can have separate classes (sometimes just for one subject). If the school is small, gifted students will sometimes be put into clusters (all or most of the gifted students will be in the same classroom). This is another kind of differentiated education.

“Real” differentiated education as Mathew speaks of in his blog, is meant to focus on the classroom as a whole. As teachers, we usually have little choice in the students who enter our classroom on the first day of school. We do, however, have a set curriculum that we are expected to teach to every student and according to NCLB, we are expected to bring every child up to a specific level. What would you do if half of your students were two or more years below grade level in most subjects, and you had 2 students well above grade level?

If meeting NCLB is interpreted as ‘focus on raising the scores of the low students’ then average and high students really don’t get an education (An argument for changing NCLB). Differentiated education is the tool teachers use to raise the test scores of struggling students while challenging and educating others. Handing out an extra worksheet or telling a student to write a story in addition to regular work can be considered differentiated teaching, in the literal sense of the word, but it is NOT differentiated education.

In my Math classroom, for example, we generally followed a schedule of a quick whole class introduction, long hands-on group work, and medium length discussion. While the students were working in groups, I would move around the room listening and working with each group. I could make sure each person was contributing to the group, help students who were having difficulty and most importantly, gauge the level of understanding of each student. When it came time to discuss the lesson with the group I would ask specific groups to share specific bits of knowledge they learned.

Generally, in my Math class, we worked on developing an understanding of math concepts, putting them into words, and then expanding our understanding to a general rule that works for everything. The differentiation was allowing the students to explore individually or in groups, but no one person was expected to do it all (I will often put my “best” students together so they don’t dominate a discussion). Everyone reached the same point in the curriculum because the discussion brought the the independent learning to a unified end. What most people are surprised to learn is, even the ’so called’ low students or groups have something valuable to share with the class (often a crucial piece to understanding the concept). This is again just one kind of differentiated learning.

Differentiated education is using the strengths, learning styles, and interests of each student to enhance education. Differentiated education can mean changing the method of delivering education It can mean the method of practicing skills. It can mean the method of demonstrating proficiency. In reality, differentiated education can mean almost anything. It can even mean direct instruction. No matter what differentiated education means to you, if teachers are going to successfully implement this education plan they spend more time getting to know their students, creating lessons, grading projects, and in general filling up those 30 or so hours of work we do outside of the classroom every week. Just another reason teaching pay should start at $60,000 a year.