Educators have long been intrigued by the prospect of individualising learning, and the emergence of new classes of technology have expanded the practical possibilities.
Last month we caught up with Kasson Bratton, Head of Middle school at Nanjing International, China who shared with us interesting insights on how NIS is driving individualised learning together with inclusion.
This is the second part of the interview in which he discusses two initiatives at NIS in detail and also shares some challenges that may arise.
1) Can you tell us more about your “Student Voice and Choice” and “Burst the Bubble” initiatives. How has this enhanced learning outcomes for students?
For us inclusion is about individualisation and the notion of Student Voice and Choice in what they inquire into, how they inquire into it, and how they share what they have discovered. I think many schools and school systems are finding that the “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning doesn’t harness the raw creative potential of the student body or larger citizenry. Daniel Pink’s work in this area in terms of giving individuals autonomy, purpose, and the time, space, and support to master something fuels the intrinsic motivation to do the complex thinking needed to innovate and problem-solve.
Example 1 @ Grade 6
One example for us would be a Grade 6 “AMP’ed” Unit (Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose Education) which just wrapped up a couple of weeks back. This unit began after grades were due, there was no extrinsic compensation, just the space to inquire within a framework
and with support. I have never seen a more motivated groups of students (which, by the way, have a WIDE range of unique learning needs and English levels) and the outcomes were brilliant! We see this approach as the future of what
school is all about, and I know that we are not alone in this regard.
Example 2@ Grade 9
Another example of how we are using Student Voice and Choice to individualise can be found in our Grade 9 Math courses. Here, we have scheduled in such a way that the entire grade has math at the same time. At the start of each unit, our teachers pre-test all students and create flexible grouping based on individual knowledge and skills in a specific area. The lower group receives direct support from one teacher and a member of our Learning Support team, a middle group begins to look at the Learning Objectives and identifying areas of strength and weakness.
Students in the high group are then given the resources to extend their learning into the Learning
Objectives of higher grades. As the unit goes on, students in the middle and high groups are given the syllabus and get to chose their style of learning for each class depending on the specific concept or skills being taught that day. Some may choose to receive direct instruction in one classroom, or work independently or in small groups with the teacher as a facilitator in another on the same strand. The best part is, they do this all over again each unit, so a student that was receiving heavy support and remediation in one area, could be in the top group in the next.
This level of individualisation passes our test of meeting students where they are and providing individualised pathways to achievement. We hope to continue to challenge the notion of grade levels and focus on a better architecture for inclusion as we move forward.
2) What are the top 3 challenges to drive inclusion in learning?As a leader what are you doing to ensure that this challenge is met?
The top three challenges to driving inclusion in my opinion are;
- Finding and keeping the right people. This means trying to discern in an interview who is paying lip service to our mission and who absolutely believes it!
- Debunking the idea that inclusion is about just a few students. Here we use data, storytelling, and celebrations of success to show our stakeholders that we are all better together.
- Being patient! As I said at the start, our mission is aspirational. We are an organisation full of passionate individuals who care deeply about our students. We tend to want things to happen yesterday. The metaphor we often refer to is the glacier. It is slow, but very powerful. It can carve valleys and shape the landscape, it just takes time!
ON 9-10 November Kasson and many other renowned educators join us at EduTECH Asia. It’ll be an exciting conference! Make sure you dont miss it!