This is a post from Mary Callan, member of the Bright Futures Partnership
I am currently teaching a graduate course for Thomas College called Trends in Instruction. Over the past three years, I have really enjoyed exploring researched-based instructional strategies with the dedicated teachers who are working hard to make a difference in their classrooms. Each time I teach the course, I use a current educational trend as a focal point to get the class thinking about what it really means to be “researched-based”. This trimester, I decided to focus on Mass Customized Learning as this seemed to be the latest trend our teachers are being asked to explore and/or implement.
As it turns out, most of the students in my course are currently teaching in districts that have embraced this trend and are well on the way towards implementation. And their stories are so telling!
To a teacher, each of these educators are supportive of the concept of individualized learning. To a teacher, they experienced some level of excitement and/or optimism in the early stages of exploration. And to a teacher, they are becoming disillusioned, confused, and even angry about how this latest trend is being implemented in their systems.
So… we spent a good part of a class recently exploring why the change? What is not working with an innovation that teachers, for the most part, wholly embrace and support? And the conclusion is that the implementation does not reflect the same principles of individualized learning that is at the heart of mass customized learning. Teachers are being told how and when they must implement this way of teaching (and, by the way, they are not entirely clear on the what… so that makes the how and when a bit difficult to accept)… There do not appear to be multiple paths and timeframes for getting there (wherever “there” is). Some of my students have been early adopters and are really feeling that their insights are not being solicited and heard.
So, perhaps there is some learning here for those who are hoping that this latest trend, and by all accounts a very worthy one, can be successfully implemented… by following the same principles set forth for students… each teacher (and administrator) establishes a 60 day plan that provides goals and activities that would move them towards implementing mass customized learning. Each would have a mentor that would serve as a cheerleader and provide feedback and resources. The plan would be shaped by the teacher (or administrator) and evidence would be collected to show progress and growth. There would be systems, structures and practices identified to support the plan. Accountability would be individualized and meaningful to the teachers and administrators who, are, after all, learners, too!
For more information on mass customized learning….