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Auburn students benefit from personalized learning

Christopher Sciria
AECSD Public Information Specialist

Personalized learning is an educational approach the Auburn Enlarged City School District uses to help students reach their potential. It focuses on students’ strengths, needs, and interests. The goal is for students to take ownership of their learning. 

“It is important as a district that we recognize that we have students with different learning styles, backgrounds, abilities, and interests,” said AECSD DEI Executive Director Dr. Reneé Burgess. “So it is imperative that we offer educational opportunities and pathways that meet our students where they are and unveil the potential they possess.”

For the last three years the district has partnered with Education Elements, an educational consulting company that provides professional learning, to create a fellowship model to help teachers learn new ways to reach students in a collaborative process. Personalized learning involves using Education Elements’ Core Four approach. 
  • Reflection & Goal Setting is when students can look back at what they are learning and know why they are learning it and set goals.
  • Flexible Path & Pace gives students flexibility on the pace they’re learning.
  • Targeted instruction is where students can state what instruction they are receiving and why, and have choice over the instruction based on their data, passion, and preferences. 
  • Collaboration & Creativity is where students are encouraged to work with each other, collaborate on solutions and projects and learn more about themselves.
The Core Four also involves nurturing learning environments and student ownership.

“We want students to take ownership over their learning, and when they're provided opportunities to do that, they usually gravitate towards approaches or practices that they are passionate about or that they like,” Burgess said, “but then also having the educator be a leader in the work to challenge them, to take a different approach that might not be as comfortable to the student, but still getting to the learning outcome that they want to achieve.”

Burgess explained the criteria the district uses to determine if personalized learning will benefit a student.

“Personalized learning is a good approach to developing student learning and assessing student learning,” she said. “Let’s look at targeted instruction. Our teachers in the district do an excellent job of holding monthly data meetings and MTSS (Multi-tiered Systems of Support) meetings. These meetings identify students' needs and skill deficits. Then, educators can use the other pieces of the Core Four to develop lessons that best meet the student’s needs, strengths, and interests, all while ensuring students have ownership over their learning.”

The fellowship gives teachers the tools they need to help their students take more ownership of what they're learning. The nurturing learning environment includes self-awareness, social awareness, and building strong relationships.

That’s also where flexible path and pace comes into play as each student learns differently and teachers can adapt their lessons to them so they can succeed.

“These are particular pieces that create an instructional environment that students can thrive in,” Burgess said. “ When we think about flexible path and pace, we know that providing one design of a lesson or one specific task for students isn't going to meet the needs of all our students. As educators, we must be creative in our thinking about the different pathways students can take to get there and achieve mastery.”

The fellowship model involves teachers who are specifically trained in personalized learning. During the school year, they engage in what are called “Monthly Sprints” to explore each element of the Core Four. 

During the school year, there are six unique sprints spread out over the course of seven months. 

“From taking the first step and looking at the data as educators to see where our students are and then creating lessons around that data, students have the opportunity to thrive in their learning environments,” Burgess said. “When we think about collaboration and creativity, this may surface in a lesson with students, where they're working in teams, and they have to accomplish a certain task anchored in a specific standard and then come up with a product that allows them to be creative in accomplishing mastery with that particular learning objective and standard.”
?The Capstone Celebration is a district-wide get-together where teachers present how their projects progressed over the school year. The teachers have an opportunity to explain the specific components of the Core Four they focused on with their students and how they progressed. 

“Throughout the fellowships, each fellow has been charged with creating a capstone project,” Burgess said. “That project was shared within their fellowship. Their peers were able to review the capstone projects and take something from the work. Over the years, we’ve developed a shared drive of resources, a personalized learning website, and a blog for all of our teachers to have access to in the district so they can learn from their peers who went through the personalized learning fellowship.” 

Burgess said the benefits that Auburn’s teachers have received from the district’s use of personalized learning means they can do even more for their students.

“Personalized Learning creates a system of opportunities,” she said. “There is powerful evidence and research out there that shows the more opportunities we provide students, the greater impact they have on their learning.” 

Superintendent: Jeffrey Pirozzolo
Phone: 315.255.8800
Address: 78 Thornton Avenue | Auburn, NY 13021
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