At the heart of Mass Customized Learning (MCL) is the learning path. This is a set of learning experiences that students work through to develop learning about a concept or skill. Regardless of your classroom set up, learning paths are an important instructional tool that can help differentiate any classroom. This post will detail some important points to consider when building your first learning path.
Each activity should be built to a specific learning outcome or standards. Activities need to be varied in that some should be hands on, media and discussion based. This gives the end user are balanced exposure to the lesson materials. In the end of the design process, we want students to have multiple paths to choose from. However, its important to construct a good first learning path before digging into to multiple paths. For example, when teaching about cells, I created Cells for Middle School. This lesson series has recorded lessons and student activities that can be used 1 to 1. These can be used alone as or coupled with non fiction readings from textbooks to create multiple paths.
Plan for Advanced Content
Understand that your high achievers will work and accomplish at a high rate. After you set up your first learning path, decide what skills or content you would like to extend. This will provide for instruction while you work with students who need remediated or just work at a slower pace. This is the greatest benefit to MCL learning paths, we no longer bridle high achievers to keep them on “track” with everyone else. I like to use building/engineering challenges like Metric Race Car or the Film Canister Challenge. These require kids to apply what they have learned and move to a higher level of learning.
Size of the learning path
Start simple. 4 to 6 learning activities are perfect for your first learning path. Any larger and it gets difficult for both the teacher and the student to track. Print out learning path list for each student and have them track at their desk. In the beginning its important they have a visual reminder of what needs to be done.
Determine How You Will Grade
This is important and deserves the most thought. Will students be turning in paper and pencil assignments as normal? Will you use some sort of modified self-check system? Do you have the ability to go completely digital and track in an LMS like Canvas or Blackboard? Students will complete tasks at different rates. I prefer to post answer keys to activities near my desk and have students check their work. I still require them to show me first, so I can ensure they aren’t just rushing through their work.
Assessments and Prove it Quizzes
At the end its important that students assess their own understanding. At the end of any learning path I use a prove it quiz. If you have access to an online quiz tool or LMS (Blackboard, Canvas) this is very helpful. I assign quiz question pools and require an 80% or better to move on.
Helping our neediest students
I will often group students up by activity. After a day you will see who is falling behind, those students will come to a desk near mine and I will lead by direct instruction over that activity. This could be 3 students or up to 10. Because your learning path allows other students to move ahead, you can devote more time to remediation to this small group increasing learning.
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