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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Personalization--The Pinnacle
A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. ~ Thomas Carruthers

Anyone who has been in education very long recognizes that there are always innovations and initiatives. The challenge for us as professionals is to connect innovations and initiatives to best practices we know are tried and true.
I recall learning something new when I was teaching at an elementary school in the early 2000’s; I was introduced to the language and thinking of the Workshop Model. Initially understanding workshop as a time structure, I worked to organize my personal classroom writing lessons around Mini Lessons (Crafting), Work Time (Composing) and Debrief (Reflection). Then I began to fully implement and manage all of the components of workshop, particularly utilizing conferring as a tool for formative assessment and engaging students in high levels of discourse to promote understanding. Only then did I begin to more fully understand how workshop is, as Sam Bennett shares in That Workshop Book, indeed a system of instruction, with many purposeful parts leading to increasing personalization of learning for students.
Through the years, as I implemented workshop across the disciplines, I understood the consequence of my intentional moves.  The impact I saw on student understanding was amazing, and I began to collaborate with colleagues to study further how our practice might have even deeper impact across contexts other than writing workshop.
Later, as I coached teachers in a variety of disciplines to use the system of workshop, I saw how that very purposeful system of workshop generalizes to any content and serves as an instructional delivery model that helps teachers know what is next for their students.
Now, years later, as I refocus, and see the “innovation” of personalization coming along,  I understand how personalization is the pinnacle of workshop, how student agency and ownership within the workshop can result in deeper learning through purposeful planning for understanding.  
There it is.  Best practices, tried and true. Workshop resulting in personalization for learners. Innovation?  Or simply fullest implementation of a best practice?