Personalized Learning Task Force Outlines Next Steps To Help Tailor Teaching For Each Student

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Tennessee Department of Education announced new steps forward in its work to personalize learning for all students today, with a report that outlines key strategies and actions the department will take to support school districts in this area. The report, which comes from the state’s Personalized Learning Task Force, is the result of 10 months of discussions and research and includes recommendations to guide personalized learning and align the work across the state to the department’s strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds.

The task force focused on exploring four key cohesive strategies that aim to tailor the teaching and learning cycle to the needs of each student:

  • blended learning, which integrates classroom and online instruction;
  • predictive analytics, which capitalizes on existing data to better predict and improve students’ learning trajectories;
  • micro-credentialing, which offers educators the chance to develop and earn recognition for demonstrating specific skills; and
  • competency-based education, which allows students to progress at their own pace by focusing on mastery of a particular area versus the time spent studying it.

In each of these areas, the task force, which was comprised of 22 educators and stakeholders, provided direction for state pilot initiatives in each.

“Our teachers have always aimed to tailor their instruction to meet the needs of their students, but now we have an opportunity to take that approach to the next level,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “We want to expand the tools our schools and educators have at their fingertips, providing new and innovative avenues to support Tennessee students as they learn. The department’s work around personalized learning is designed to support and empower districts as they define what strategies and practices work best for their students.”

Common themes have emerged from personalized learning conversations in both Tennessee and nationwide, including driving toward student-centered learning experiences, leveraging technology and flexibility in how students learn and demonstrate mastery, and emphasizing the real-world applicability of student learning and interests. Additionally, while interest in personalized learning is high among educators and districts, there is a need to better support teachers in understanding how to integrate personalized learning into their classrooms and how to best leverage technology.

As part of the report, the task force released five recommendations today to build on these common themes while ensuring the strategies have the flexibility to be tailored to unique local contexts, goals, and resources.

1. Develop state descriptors of personalized learning rather than a finite definition to allow districts flexibility, incorporating elements like student-centered practices, innovative instructional strategies and measures of learning, collaboration, flexibility in pace and place, and technology to improve the efficiency of the learning cycle

2. Pursue blended-learning pilots, integrating both classroom and online learning to provide tailored instruction and shifting the time, place, and pace of learning to fit student needs

3. Develop and utilize predictive analytic technology, creating systems to help educators better understand their students’ needs and identify the most appropriate type of instruction

4. Develop and launch a micro-credentials pilot system to explore a new model of professional learning, allowing educators to pursue their own learning through online modules based on their needs and interests

5. Facilitate the development of a competency-based education pilot, allowing students to focus on demonstrating mastery through application and empower them to advance through curricula and grades as mastery is achieved

The report also includes updates and details on each pilot, as well as some additional context about the importance of ensuring that each strategy is used as part of a cohesive approach to personalized learning. 

The Personalized Learning Task Force was launched in December 2015 to explore local and national strategies, inform Tennessee pilot initiatives, and provide recommendations on the overall direction for the state to support personalized learning. To build on the work of the task force, in early 2017, Deputy Commissioner Kathleen Airhart will meet with district and school leaders across the state to discuss how they may want to incorporate these recommended strategies into their local approaches for personalized learning.  

You can review the complete task force report on the department’s website here. For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast at (615) 532-6260 or Sara.Gast@tn.gov.


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