Take a moment and think about the students who are currently in your classes. When you teach a lesson on any given day there are typically three main paths the students will go down. The first path includes the students who understand the concept immediately and are ready for an extension or are ready to move on to new material. The second path includes the students who understand the content but really would benefit from additional examples and guided practice. The third path includes the students who do not grasp the material as quickly and would benefit greatly from a variety of instructional methods as well as having additional time to ensure understanding. As the teacher, which pathway do you choose to teach for to ensure maximum growth and understanding for all students?
During the first three years of my teaching career, I came to this crossroad each day. It was a very tough decision to know which path was the correct one, but I thought that if I taught to the average student the majority of the class would complete the intended standards at a proficient level. The students who needed an alternative method of instruction, additional practice or just more time to practice could come in before or after school for extra help. Looking back, I can regretfully acknowledge that I did not maximize the learning of all students. I maximized the learning for the middle of the road. Unfortunately, this meant the advanced students were most likely bored and chose to be compliant with the rest of the instruction and practice I provided them with, while the students who were slower learners were penalized by spending additional time outside of class to receive the interventions necessary to be successful.
What if we could transform education so every student was given appropriate opportunities and pathways to maximize learning? What if each student was able to learn at their own pace and the learning was not dependent on the pace of classmates? If a student was given the ability to take ownership of their own learning would they set higher standards for themselves than teacher do? What if the ceiling was taken off education so students could transition to the next course of study when they are ready instead of utilizing the beginning and end of the school year to determine course changes?
There is a world of opportunity for transformation in our current educational system. It is important to begin to ask innovative questions to influence positive change within your classroom, district and community. What are you going to do to improve the quality of education for your student’s? What are you going to do to personalize education for each student so they can reach their maximum potential? What are you going to do to allow each student to take the path that is the most appropriate and the most beneficial for them?