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Three Personalized Learning Strategies That Worked in My Classroom


• Tredina Sheppard

After my first year of teaching middle grades science, I quickly realized that I had to come up with a solution for my underperforming students. I had assumed that connecting the content to real world experiences was all I needed for all students to be successful in my course.  Not only were these students performing poorly on unit assessments, they were also less likely to complete their homework or participate in classroom discussions.

At first, I was confused because I was sure my inquiry-based science class was an engaging and fun environment for learning. Students participated in hands on lab activities and created visual models of their thinking.  It would have been easy to write these students off, but that’s not how we operate at P.K. Yonge. I was determined to get  answers as to why students weren’t performing well on my unit assessments.

One would think that the lack of success in my classroom was due to not completing the homework.  It’s true that homework is important, but it is a means to an end and that end is mastery of the content. I’ve had countless students with the capability of completing inquiry-based lab experiences and being successful on unit assessments.  My concern lied with those who weren’t so successful or were unhappy with their progress.  I still needed more information from students about their efforts on unit assessments.

Providing an open environment for students to share what worked and didn’t work helped me in the formation of how the next unit was presented. Students often shared that they felt overwhelmed with multiple assessments in one day, needed additional practice of content covered, and wanted a solution for eliminating fear of answering questions in front of their peers.

I knew that I could not tackle each issue in one year, so over the course of my last three years of teaching middle grades science, I have implemented teaching key strategies to personalize and enhance student learning.

Year 1:  Enhanced Technology

I knew I wanted to find a technology resource that would allow for all students to have the ability to participate actively in classroom discussions.  Nearpod was a dream come true!  Using this site allowed me to upload previously made PowerPoint presentations with the addition of including questions for students to answer independently.

 

Students had the ability to share out anonymous answers and creatively draw models of science concepts to enhance our classroom conversation. My students were now free to participate without feeling the pressure of getting an answer incorrect. Students were definitely engaged, but there was still a high number of students participating in each unit retake assessment.

Year 2:  Supplemental Assignments

My second year of implementing personalized learning strategies focused on  giving students options to supplement their learning with lesson materials for core concepts they were struggling to grasp. Results from year one showed that only a few students were improving their scores during their unit retake test opportunity.

First, I provided supplemental assignments to students who needed additional support prior to completing their retake assessment option. Providing students with the ability to check their level of understanding by rating themselves from 1-4 (1= no clue to 4= I can explain to someone else), practice questions related to the lesson, and additional simulations and videos related to each lesson within the unit did help in bridging the gap necessary for student success.

Year 3:  Unit Assessment Testing Window

This year, I felt like I had a system in place. Our classroom technology  was engaging all students and they were completing their supplemental assignments as needed. However, my students still felt  overwhelmed with multiple assessments on a given day.

I was still a little unsure of how to proceed on this issue, so I focused on one class group of students who I thought could benefit the most. Students were given a week-long window in order to complete their science unit assessment.

The majority of students completed the unit assessment the following class period due to having another course assessment on the initial unit test day.  Giving my students the decision on when to take their test during the window reduced the number of retakes and increased student ownership of their learning and expression of the content lessons covered.

In the end, students told me that they appreciated having the testing window. The data also supported this approach as assessment scores increased  and few students came back for retakes because they had successfully completed the assessment the first time.

Providing students with a personalized learning environment that meets the individual needs of my diverse student population was my ultimate goal.  Enhancing my classroom with technology, supplemental assignments, and extending the testing window, have allowed my students to take more ownership in their learning and performance of middle grades science content.

Through my work to personalize learning, my students are now more equipped with the content knowledge needed in order to excel in the classroom.

Tredina Sheppard teaches eighth-grade Science at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the University of Florida’s affiliated K-12 laboratory school. She can be reached at tsheppard@pky.ufl.edu or on Twitter @tshepppky.


About the author


Tredina Sheppard

tsheppard@pky.ufl.edu

Tredina Sheppard teaches eighth-grade Science at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the University of Florida’s affiliated K-12 laboratory school. She can be reached at tsheppard@pky.ufl.edu or on Twitter @tshepppky.