Empower Teachers as They Create Student-Centered Learning Environments

By Cassondra-Corbin Thaddies, National Curriculum Specialist, McGraw-Hill Education

When district leaders undertake a transition to introduce personalized learning in their schools, the technology adoption and integration phases often become all-consuming.

It’s important to remember, however, that the ultimate goal of personalized learning is, not just to introduce technology in the classroom, but to construct a student-centered learning environment, where teachers and students can collaborate together to determine the student’s best path for learning. Personalized learning creates a dynamic relationship between teacher and student – and that new type of collaboration can trigger many changes, such as greater student participation in designing the learning experience and increased use of real-time student data and insights. When introducing such a fundamental shift in the classroom, administrators have to ensure they are giving their teams the resources and learning opportunities that will allow them to confidently navigate this new environment of student-teacher collaboration and digital learning.

There is no set formula for success because each learning community is different and has different needs, but district leaders must recognize that in order to implement truly effective personalized learning, extensive support and ongoing professional development is required for all teachers. Based on my experiences working with dedicated district leaders and passionate educators, I’ve selected a few specific supports that I believe district leaders can and should provide their teachers as they move to set up student-centered, personalized learning environments.

#1: Hands-on Leadership from Administrators…During All Phases of Implementation

A full transition to personalized learning asks so much of even the most innovative, dedicated educators – and any teacher will need extensive support from their district and school leaders to drive an effective transition to student-centered learning. Leaders should be entrenched in the environment, present in the classroom, and active in the evolving process. Experiencing the transition alongside their teams and modeling the process themselves can make a significant difference for the teachers on the frontline.

#2: Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities

As teachers begin to change their mindsets and teaching practices, educators will need focused professional development opportunities – that are ongoing and job-embedded – to help them navigate the many complexities of transitioning to a personalized learning environment. Importantly, professional learning opportunities also need to mirror student instruction: they should be collaborative (online and face-to-face), real-time, and relevant. Administrators should provide continued professional development that’s personalized to the educators’ needs and directly aligned to the daily challenges that educators could face during the transition.

#3: Teacher Collaboration and Sharing

Much of the personalized learning journey will come down to simple classroom experimentation. Decisions should of course be based on research, but sometimes applying the best practices for student-centered instruction and making them a reality in the classroom will take some out-of-the-box thinking and trial and error. That’s why it’s critical that teachers have visibility into their colleagues’ experiences, so they can share what’s working and what’s not working with each other. Teachers can sometimes feel isolated in their classroom and remain unaware of how technology is being used, even if exciting personalized learning experiences are being implemented just next door. EdTech coaches or facilitators also can make a big difference in helping teachers connect and share their triumphs and struggles.

To hear more about personalized learning and the steps leaders can take to support teachers, watch:

To join a community of like-minded district leaders who are also looking for professional learning opportunities around student-centered learning, consider attending a Future Ready Schools® Institute.

Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies is a passionate leader committed to creating a shift in mind-set and educational practices to positively impact student learning. As the National Consultant, Blended Learning, for McGraw-Hill Education, Cassondra travels nationally and internationally supporting district and school leaders to implement 21st century teaching strategies that transform learning experiences for students.

Prior to joining McGraw-Hill Education, Cassondra worked as a Regional Director managing educational programs serving underserved students in K-12 schools. In addition, she worked as the Director of Professional Learning at Redbird Advanced Learning where she collaborated with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education as a contributor to the design and course development of the Redbird Professional Learning Platform that provides innovative online professional development to thousands of teachers and leaders across the country.