Depending on your school calendar, you may be closing out the year this week or preparing to close out the year in a few weeks. No one knows what school will look like in the fall. (Will we “back to normal” with school resuming the way it ran pre-COVID? Will we still be doing what we’re doing now—purely distance learning? Will we have a hybrid model that blends occasional in-person classes with online tasks?) However, we can make a plan to prepare for whatever school looks like at the start of the next school year.
Quick side note: I know thinking about the next school year before you’ve even had a taste of summer break may have zero appeal. If that’s the case, bookmark this article or add the link to your calendar for a date later in the summer as a reminder to read it when you’re ready!
If you’ve already been thinking about Fall 2020, let’s dive into some things we can do to prepare ourselves for the various possibilities.
Teachers, especially if you’re still teaching, ask yourself what you can invest time in now that you can use later. Check out my recent “opportunity” series (posted from mid-April to early May) for examples. Generally, this could be a protocol (activity) or a tech tool you’ve started using or resources you’ve been curating and can re-use next year. The through-line could be even more general like a mindset shift or a new approach (e.g., promoting student ownership) that you’ve adopted in the virtual space and could continue to use next year.
Leaders, we’ve talked about this in a previous post. Communicate a clear vision that encompasses steps you’ve taken to adjust to distance learning now and the things you want to see next year and even further into the future.
Plan Your Budget
Teachers, this is not a call for you to spend your own money, although I know many of us do, out of necessity. I’m talking about your use of Teacher’s Choice money (if you have a similar program) or what request(s) you want to post on Donors Choose.
Leaders, if you’re still putting together your 2020-2021 budget, there is so much to consider. Of course, for most schools, funds are likely to decline either as a result of declining enrollment or COVID-related state budget cuts. Consider what you absolutely need to support students. If there’s a chance we’ll still be doing distance learning or a hybrid model, technological infrastructure like student devices and wifi access will be critical, but you can probably avoid spending money on software and opt for free versions of tech tools. You may want to consider reaching out to a school who recently received a tech grant to see if you could take or borrow their older devices they are no longer using. After you’ve covered all of the “must haves,” determine your priority for the remaining funds. (Do you want to invest the money in distance learning training for your staff this summer? Do you want to hire or contract someone to address mental health concerns? Do you want to pay people to run virtual clubs or sports practices to maintain the extracurricular elements of school?)
Invest in Summer PD
Teachers, seek out your own personal PD. This could be listening to educational podcasts or reading educational blogs or books. (My favorite educator podcasts include: Cult of Pedagogy, Truth for Teachers, and for tech—Google Teacher Tribe.) I’ll be holding a free masterclass on curriculum design in July, so keep an eye out for that!
Leaders, you too can seek out personal PD. The podcast recommendations I mentioned above are good for instructional leaders as well. Here are two leader-specific podcasts I like: Better Leaders Better Schools and Transformative Principal. With this knowledge, you can design your own PD for the staff, facilitate a staff success share (i.e., staff-led PD) or find external PD providers to work with your staff.
Teachers, I would prepare for at least a hybrid model of teaching (some days in person, some days online). Consider how you want to adapt your curriculum and pedagogical approaches for this possibility. If you’re excited to design new curricula or feel overwhelmed by the work involved—or feeling a bit of both—I’m launching my self-paced Curriculum Boot Camp course in July. Get excited!
Leaders, make time for teachers to connect as departments or grade teams so they can collectively brainstorm curricular and pedagogical approaches for the fall. Also, connect teachers with PD on this topic (again, hosted by you, your staff or an external provider). Enroll your department leads or grade team chairs in my self-paced Curriculum Boot Camp course in July or reach out to me to schedule personalized, live boot camps for each of your teacher teams!
As always, I’ll close the week with a free resource to get you started…
Curriculum writers, I’m re-sharing this Backwards Planning Template freebie from several weeks ago. Click the button below and plan to your heart’s content!
The immediate priority was to figure out how students would engage in learning. Now that we’re a couple months into distance learning, you and your teachers likely have a better handle on that question, but another issue has emerged: Zoom fatigue (or Google Meet fatigue).
At this point, students, teachers, and leaders are a bit worn out by constant video conferencing. While in some states, schools are wrapping up the year at the end of the month, other school districts, still have a month of school to go! Which presents a new question for leaders, similar to the one we’ve been helping teachers answer: How often do I hold live meetings and how much information can be shared asynchronously?
Leaders have been supporting teachers as teachers have been supporting students, so let’s consider some of the same concepts we apply to an online class. Below, I’ll re-share some suggestions I shared with teachers, but with a focus on staff communication.
Asynchronous tools with a synchronous feel. To maintain that sense of staff camaraderie, invite teachers who want to check in to post a video on Flipgrid. Help teacher teams set up group Voxer channels (or if your school is small, set up one Voxer channel for the whole staff). This way, you can hear and respond to colleagues’ voices without the possibly overwhelming visual stimuli or the need to be “on” at a particular time—you respond when you can.
Use a live chat. You may have office hours in the same way teachers have tutoring or conferencing with students, but you can also address staff questions through chat-based tech tools. You could set up a staff page on your Learning Management System (e.g., Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas). Post a question and be ready to respond in real time for a predetermined time span (e.g., 30 minutes). If teachers have questions about a particular document, have them add comments to the doc so you can respond. (You can do this immediately by scheduling time to be in the doc. Or, you can have teachers tag you by typing “+” or “@” followed by your email address in the comment. This way, you can respond when you have time, and the teacher will be notified of your response via email).
Structure the asynchronous tasks. The same Define-Explore-Build framework I suggest for asynchronous classes, I use for teacher meetings as well. That might be: read the announcements, explore 1 distance learning article or tech tool tutorial from a list, and share out (i.e., what you learned, a question you have) on Flipgrid, in a discussion board, or in a shared doc/slide deck. As with students, keep the format the same. This is actually a great way to model for teachers what they can do with students, so be strategic here.
To further support teachers with structure, you may want to offer a model of a sample educator schedule for working at home. Modeling scheduled breaks and how to set up your day for maximum efficiency could be helpful. (For example, I generally try to use mornings to create and afternoons for meetings or more menial tasks. Knowing this is the most efficient use of my energy, I try to avoid scheduling meetings in the mornings. I also need a brain break after the creativity-intensive mornings, so I try to use a walk outside as a way to reset before the afternoon tasks and meetings.) Model purposeful scheduling and boundary setting for your staff!
Record live meetings. If you do have live meetings that are not super interactive, make them optional! Share the recording after you end the meeting. People can still get the information, see familiar faces, and have the option to watch it on 1.5x speed to save time.
Add audio to asynchronous tasks. Record your meeting updates or staff memos using a screen sharing app like Screencastify or Screencast O'Matic. This way, you can explain something that may be confusing in writing. You could also annotate a website using InsertLearning (also modeling how teachers could do this with students). You could use the Talk & Comment Chrome extension to add a voice note in any conversation on any platform where you can add text. This also saves you time typing everything out!
Optional synchronous sessions. Your live meetings could be purely social gatherings. So, extroverts who want that connection can attend and introverts who are meetinged-out don’t have to worry about missing important information.
On this 12-minute Bossed Up podcast episode, Emilie Aries shares 10 tips for reducing Zoom fatigue. I addressed many of Emilie’s leader-based tips above, but there are a bunch of suggestions that staff members could benefit from hearing as well. Give it a listen, and if it feels helpful, share the episode with your team!
As a preview, here are just two of Emilie’s tips and my thoughts on how they apply to leaders:
Finally, to support your staff with this last piece, direct them to my last blog post so they can read some working from home scheduling tips and get the free template and sample schedule.
That’s a wrap on the tips for today. Go forth, and defeat Zoom fatigue, fearless leaders!
While some schools may require teachers to be on video for most of the work week and some schools have told teachers not to teach live classes on video, most schools are somewhere in the middle. For most teachers, that means more flexibility than usual in how and when you get your work done. To be clear, this does not mean teachers have less work by any means, but the structure of the school day is less than usual.
So, how can we effectively structure our days when we are working and teaching from home? Here are 5 tips (and a free template) to help you think this through:
Tip #1: Set boundaries. Working from home is tough because it’s easier than usual to just keep working. You never leave your place of work! (If you can, designate a space just for work or put your work-related papers out of sight at the end of the day.) Scheduling-wise, try to limit yourself to 40 hours a week. That means 8 hour work days and no-work weekends. I know this is hard—I’ve launched an entire course around this premise, but the goal here is to set boundaries, so choose boundaries that work for you.
Tip #2: Schedule in alignment with your energy. For me, that means tackling creation-based tasks in the morning when my energy is fresh, and saving my meetings and menial tasks, like email, for the afternoon. Your energy may be the opposite, so you may want to make time for lesson or activity creation towards the end of the day. We’re all used to a school day that starts early in the morning, but if you don’t have live classes to host or meetings to attend at that time, start your work day later if you’re more productive later in the day!
Tip #3: Batch your work. For those of you who attended my live masterclass, you’ve heard me say this before. Batching your work is productivity gold. My preference is 4-hour chunks of time, but that may not be realistic if you have scheduled times you need to host a live class or staff meetings to work around. I recommend spending at least one concentrated hour on a task (aside from something like email or short “check the box” kinds of To Dos). Batching is great because once you get in the zone, you are far more efficient than when you first start a task. We often restart when we’re interrupted (by ourselves or someone else) to do an unrelated task.
Lately, I’ve been trying to limit myself to 2 big goals each day: 1 creation goal in the morning (e.g., create x number of lessons) and 1 task-based goal in the afternoon (e.g., check in with students I haven’t heard from this week). Having just 2 big goals instead of a laundry list of To Dos makes me feel less overwhelmed and really productive.
Tip #4: Take breaks. Get up and move. Get away from the screen. In her podcast episode on Zoom fatigue, Emilie Aries shares the expert recommendation for breaks: 10-15 minutes of break time for every 2 hours of work. When we batch, that productivity can sometimes go into overdrive (I’m speaking from experience here!). Sometimes, we can roll with it and take a long break afterwards, but this should be the exception, not the rule. I’ve been scheduling at least one mid-day walk break for myself to make sure I get up and move around and get out of work mode. Full transparency? This is still a struggle for me. I often listen to educational podcasts during this time so I’m still doing research for work, but this is how I convince myself to take the break!
Tip #5: Put it on the calendar. Let’s imagine you are staring at a long To Do list with no hope of getting it all done. A colleague emails you and asks you to do something for them, and you say yes because what’s one more thing on your To Do list? Later, you read an article about self-care and decide exercise should go on that list too. The To Do list continues to consume your life and few things get done. Here’s what I do to keep my To Do list small and my completion rate at 100% (while also reminding myself to take breaks): I put my To Do list on the calendar—I eliminate the “list” part. I have my big goals for each day, but the specific tasks I need to accomplish? They go in as events on my calendar. I estimate the amount of time it will take to complete the task and add it to my calendar. Once the day’s filled up, I know I can’t do any more tasks on that day, so I’ll need to add it to the next day. If something comes up that absolutely has to be done today, I move the tasks that got ousted to open slots later in the week. Notice that I do not delete them (unless they don’t actually have to be done) and I don’t lengthen my work day to get them done (at least, I try not to do that.)
Feeling ready to implement these tips? I have a free scheduling template to get you started. Two, actually. One is set up for batch mode, but there’s a basic template if you want to make your own batching slots. There’s also a color-coded sample teacher schedule I created in case it’s helpful to adapt that.
Being a school leader or an instructional leader during this pandemic is challenging. There are so many expectations being heaped upon you—addressing the academic and emotional needs of your teachers and students, getting students set up with meals and devices and internet access, providing a clear vision and having all the answers while also determining what to share and when to share it, all while maintaining hope and calm. Phew!
How do you do it all?
You don’t, at least not perfectly. You do the best you can. Give yourself some grace, and recognize perfection in an emergency is not possible. You know this! You’re likely telling teachers this same thing. Make sure you’re in a place where you have what you need to lead effectively. Check out my post, “How to Be Well When Teaching from Home,” which also applies to leaders!
Establish a Through-line
I say this a lot to leaders because it is critically important: have a clear vision. Sure, we are throwing band-aids on problems left and right, and we need to do that. However, as leaders, we also want to keep in mind where we’re going. What are the things that we can continue to do and build on after we’re out of this emergency situation?
I recommend choosing one area of focus that serves as your through-line. By through-line, I mean it’s at the forefront of your efforts now, and it will remain a focus post-pandemic. This continued area of focus is the thread that connects what you do during COVID-19 and what you do after.
For example, your through-line may be student engagement through student voice. What tools or strategies are you using now to amplify student voice and increase student engagement? How might these tools and strategies continue to be used when we’re back in physical classrooms? For specific ideas around this through-line, check out the “Opportunity” series of posts I’ve shared over the past few weeks.
For other ideas on what your through-line could be, consult your school’s mission and vision statement. What piece could you focus on? To get more specific, look to your teacher evaluation tool. For example if you use the Danielson rubric, perhaps one of the 6 clusters (or a subtopic within a cluster) could serve as your through-line.
Why establish one through-line?
It offers a strong why for teachers (and students) who need one. If everything is centered around this one area of focus that the community knows will be useful later on, there’s more buy in to focus on it now. Focus can also reduce overwhelm in teachers. In virtual classrooms, you may be encouraging teachers to focus on a few key things at a time (e.g., concepts, tools, activity types) so that students are not overwhelmed. This is true for leaders working with teachers too.
It’s also good leadership practice. Research on Massachusetts turnaround schools found the schools who did not succeed in turning their schools around lacked prioritization of a couple key areas. Instead, they tried to focus on too many things at once (DESE). Ideally, these one or two goals should be data-informed, high-leverage, and co-created with stakeholders or a representative stakeholder team, so if you have time to look at the data and consult with teachers, students, and families about what to focus on, that’s going to increase buy-in! Manderschild & Kusy (2005) write about vision, citing Kouzes and Posner’s finding that a clear vision leads to “higher levels of [employee] motivation, commitment, loyalty, esprit de corps, and clarity about the organization’s values, pride, and productivity,” (p. 67).
If you’ve found your through-line, share it with others! What work are you doing now that you’ll be able to build onto this fall?
In my last post, I talked about the benefits of synchronous (i.e., real-time) and asynchronous (i.e., not real-time) learning experiences during distance learning. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend going back and reading that post first.
This post is for teachers who are looking for more flexibility than the dichotomy of “Live Classes vs. Asynchronous Tasks” provides. While there are limitations to each, this post is a series of ideas to work around those limitations to try to find the best of both approaches.
Here we go...
Asynchronous tools with a synchronous feel. To foster a sense of class community, you could use a tool like Flipgrid for students to check in or discuss content by posting a video of themselves. This way, students see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices, and they have the freedom to post and respond when they are able to do so. Voxer is another tool for 1:1 check-ins teachers may want to use to contact students or families. It allows you to send a voice note without using your phone number, and folks can respond with a voice note when they are able. This eliminates the need to be on the phone at the same time while retaining the human connection element of voice.
Use a live chat. If you designate a time to be online and working in a specific tool (e.g., a shared Google Doc, a Padlet, a discussion thread on your LMS), you can still achieve the synchronous benefit of getting immediate answers, but students don’t need to use up as much bandwidth because they’re not using video.
Structure the asynchronous tasks. You may want to provide a sample schedule for students who struggle to structure their days. You could also create routines that emulate routines you would use during a live class to structure the learning. For example, I structure my live classes using a Define-Explore-Build framework, so I try to set up my asynchronous tasks in the same way: watch my mini lesson here, choose 2 resources to explore from this choice board, respond to these questions on Flipgrid. Keeping the same routines in the asynchronous space (though they may be slightly adapted in form), can help students adapt to the transition to distance learning.
Record live classes. Of course, some schools do not allow teachers to record sessions, but if you do have permission to record classes, this can be a great way for students who missed a live class to still get the information and see their teachers and peers. Having a recording of the class also helps students who were on the live call, but struggled to focus or just want to rewatch part of the class.
Add audio to asynchronous tasks. Recording a mini lesson using a screen sharing app like Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic can help students feel more connected to you as a teacher and also support students who struggle to read lots of text or respond in writing. Similarly, you could add your own audio notes to an Edpuzzle or add video directions to a website using InsertLearning. You could use the Talk & Comment Chrome extension to add a voice note in any conversation on any platform where you can add text. If students are able to add the extension on their device, they can use it too!
Optional synchronous sessions. You can hold space on a video call for students to connect with one another and talk about their lives. Live sessions don’t have to be academic classes; they can focus on the social and emotional well-being of students. While it would be great for all students to be able to attend these, the students who are unable to attend will not be penalized for missing required academic content, and it will not negatively impact their grades (if your school is still assigning grades).
If a weekly template would help you organize student tasks, I’ve got one for you. Click the button below for this week’s freebie, which includes 3 templates with different ways to set up your weekly tasks.
As always, please share any other combinations of synchronous and asynchronous experiences you’ve come up with! And, if you try one of the above strategies, I would love to hear how it goes. Keep being amazing, resilient educators.
Different schools have different requirements for learning experiences during distance learning. Some schools require teachers to hold live classes with the same regularity they would meet in physical classrooms. Some schools require 1-2 live classes a week. Others don't have any requirements, and it’s up to teachers if they want to hold daily live classes, never hold a live class, or find some combination of both synchronous (i.e., happening in real-time) and asynchronous (i.e., not happening in real-time) learning experiences.
If you as a teacher or administrator have some flexibility in whether to hold live classes or assign asynchronous tasks, you may be wondering what your ratio of live classes to asynchronous tasks should be. The short answer is there is no right answer because each context is different. But, let’s dive into some of the things you may want to consider.
Benefits of Live Classes
Social Connection. One of the best reasons to hold live classes is to create space for social connection. At a time when students are isolated in their homes and unable to go see friends, opportunities to connect in real time with their teachers and classmates is powerful. If we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, many educators have pointed out (even before the pandemic) that belonging is a prerequisite to learning. Learning doesn’t happen until students get to the top of that pyramid.
It’s familiar. For both teachers and students, live classes are probably the closest equivalent to how classes were run in a physical classroom. For teachers, designing a lesson for a defined period of time in which students are (ideally) present in real time makes it possible to do traditional classroom activities like lecture, have a class discussion, or use breakout groups for small group discussion (depending on your video conferencing tool). It’s less work to find additional tools or avenues for students to communicate with you and with each other because it’s somewhat familiar. Students may also find comfort in this familiar(-ish) structure.
Immediate feedback. If a student has questions, they can ask during a live class and get an immediate answer. When asking questions through email, there is typically a delay before receiving a response. Additionally, if a teacher notices students are confused or they have misconceptions about the content, they can correct it in the moment on a live call.
Provides structure. For students (and educators!) who may struggle with the lack of structure during distance learning, live classes add structure to the day. For those who attend, it’s an accountability measure to get them out of bed and into work mode. It can serve as a reminder of work to be completed or questions they want to ask.
Benefits of Asynchronous Learning
Tech flexibility. Some forms of asynchronous learning will not require devices (e.g., reading, journaling, paper-based worksheets). For tasks that do require devices, eliminating the requirement to use a device at a specified time will give students who share devices with family members more flexibility as to when they’re able to get on. Even if students do have their own device, there may be limited bandwidth available for multiple family members to be on live calls at the same time. Asynchronous assignments enable students to get online when they are able to get on.
Time flexibility. For younger students who need assistance using technology, they may only be able to get online when a caretaker is available to help them. Many caretakers are still working—some at home and some outside of the home if they are determined to be essential workers. Asynchronous learning experiences offer more flexibility for students who need caretaker help in accessing class materials. Many older students also benefit from that flexibility, as they may be tasked with watching younger siblings or, in some cases, they may be essential workers themselves, and need to complete school work outside of typical school hours.
Less video conferencing overwhelm. Some students may find it difficult to concentrate during live classes. There are a lot of stimuli: various faces on the screen, multiple microphones unmuted at once, background noise! Also, having to navigate the video conferencing system itself and all of the new features can be exhausting. I see adults in my virtual PD sessions struggle with this on a daily basis. The struggle is real—for youth and adults.
What’s the ideal balance?
Again, it’s up to you. My own approach to this is anything that can be done well asynchronously, should be. In my current college class, I’ve held just two synchronous sessions for the whole second half of the semester (since we transitioned to distance learning). I asked students how they were experiencing this approach and received overwhelming positive feedback. They appreciated the flexibility asynchronous learning opportunities offered, especially as the majority of their other classes were being run as live sessions. That said, you know your students best. Find a cadence that works best for you. Maybe that’s one live session a week. Maybe that’s more (or less). My best recommendation is to check in with your students to see what’s working and what’s not working for them. Asking students is always a good idea!
I hope this run down of considerations will help you develop an approach that works for you and your students. I’d love to hear how you structure your activities and what your breakdown of synchronous and asynchronous activities is. Feel free to share in the comments or in our Facebook group!
In Part I of this 2-part post, I discussed what personalized pathways are and why they’re a good strategy to have in your instructional toolkit. In this post, I want to dig into how you can create these powerful pathways.
Let’s get right to it.
Logistically, what tools could I use to create pathways?
Platforms like Sutori can serve as an organizational space to categorize different activities and expose students to all of their options. I like the simplicity of a Google Doc to create the student worksheet (almost like a tracker/journal) in which they document what they have worked on, their results, and their reflections. You could also use a goal setting template in conjunction with a pathway worksheet or adapt it to take the place of a pathway worksheet.
I’ve created a free Personalized Pathway Tracker template as a Google Doc, so you can take it, edit it, and share it with students. Click the button below to get it.
For the learning activities students will engage with, you could use existing platforms that deliver content and assess within the same platform. This post offers ideas for free online resources by content area. Use whatever resources students may already be familiar with—a YouTube channel like the Amoeba sisters, Khan Academy, Newsela, etc.
You could also make your own resources by recording a screenshare video of a mini lesson and creating a Forms quiz for the assessment piece. For optimal choice, I like including options from both premade resources and platforms as well as something I made.
To save yourself some time: Consider delivering your regular mini lessons as a video. This way, you don’t have to make new videos for the pathway. Instead, you can just re-use your recorded daily mini lessons for this purpose. This practice helps students who may need to rewatch your lessons and students who were absent from class.
How does this translate once I’m back in the physical classroom?
Pathways make great asynchronous learning tasks for a virtual learning environment, but they also work really nicely for independent work during WIN Time. (See my earlier post on WIN Time.) When you’re meeting with a small group of students, this is a meaningful activity students can be independently working on.
Alternatively, if you assign homework, this is a quality homework assignment if students have access to the learning resources at home. Instead of homework where everyone completes the same worksheet, homework can be tailored to fill the skill gaps that vary by student.
I’ve heard of a playlist before. Is a pathway the same thing?
A playlist has many of the same features as a pathway in that it presents learning activities that will help students progress towards mastery. A playlist is a structured list of activities that all students must complete. Sometimes, students are told to go in a specified order and other times, students may be told they can complete the tasks in whichever order they would like. This is similar to a playlist of music. You have a list of songs, and you’re going to listen to all of them. Usually, the playlist will play in order of the songs as they are listed, but there may be an option to “shuffle” songs. Still, the songs are the same.
The big difference with a pathway is that it is less structured. There is more student choice. So you’re leading them in a general direction, offering a clear path forward, but exactly how they get there is up to them. With a pathway, you offer multiple options for learning information and multiple options for how students can assess their progress. Students don’t need to watch every video or complete every form of assessment—they choose the ones that will work for them and they decide when they are ready to reassess and (once mastery is demonstrated) move onto a new skill or standard.
The two keys to remember are: student choice and differentiation. Not all students need the same things and they don’t all need to spend the same length of time on a specific skill or topic. To be clear, playlists are not bad, they are just less differentiated. You may want to start by creating a playlist to get students familiar with the process. Then, as you add resources, you can start to develop a more choice-based pathway.
The last several posts have talked about using this time of increased innovation and experimentation to try out more student-centered learning practices. Another way to center students in their own learning is to design personalized pathways that enable student choice as they progress through course skills or standards.
What is a personalized pathway?
A pathway is a strategy which provides a loosely structured array of activities that students can choose to engage with as they move along the “path” towards mastery. My brilliant colleague at BetterLesson, Tori Todd, has built out a strategy here with implementation steps, things to consider, and examples of what this could like in practice. She emphasizes the importance of goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection as keys to making this strategy meaningful.
Why would I use one?
For one, engagement is stronger when students have a choice in what they do. This is always helpful, but particularly in a time when many teachers have noticed low participation from their students who do have technology access, motivation may be an approach to getting students re-engaged with class activities.
This also promotes student ownership of the learning and builds up independent learner skills (like the aforementioned goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection). If we provide students with opportunities to make choices about the best way for them to learn, we’re saying we trust students as learners to make the call that’s right for them.
A note on this: We want to be sure to teach students how to engage with personalized pathways, make choices that correspond with previous assessment data, and reflect and adjust as needed. Sometimes, it may feel tough to let students make choices we see as mistakes, but we can guide the reflection process to help students learn from those mistakes on their own. Of course, we can also step in and offer more guided support as needed after students have had numerous chances to course correct themselves.
How could I use personalized pathways in my instruction?
Once students have a basic understanding of the skills or standards in your class and what mastery looks like for each, they will need to understand where they are in that mastery-based progression. They could get this information through grades or feedback on prior assessments or a 1:1 conference with you.
At this point, you can introduce a pathway template to students (more on that in the next section), and teach them how to fill it out. It’s helpful to tell students why each piece is important (i.e., promoting independent learner skills and supporting mastery of skills or standards). Reviewing the various learning activity options as well as assessment options with students can support them to make an informed choice.
I like to schedule regular check-ins with students. You can do this by commenting or offering feedback on their completed pathway worksheets or you can meet 1:1 in real time to talk about their progress.
You may also want to have some kind of paper or digital student tracker to keep track of which standard each student is working on and where each student is in their mastery of those standards. For teachers who use standards-based grading, this could just be your gradebook. For others, you may need to create something new like a spreadsheet.
For now, consider how you could integrate pathways into your instruction. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll share ideas for how you can build a pathway for your students. I’ll also share a free template you can use to get started.
Lindsay is a educator and leadership coach who helps teachers develop engaging project-based curricula, fosters student and teacher voice, and works to advance racial and gender equity and culturally responsive practice.