Recently released by the Alliance for Excellent Education: Culture Shift: Teaching in a Learner-Centered Environment Powered By Digital Learning, a report that advocates a culture shift to a learner-centered classroom environment to prepare students to meet the challenges and demands of a global economy. The report identifies:

  • Learning needs to be rigorous and based on college and career-ready expectations.
  • Learning is collaborative, relevant, and applied.
  • Learning is flexible, taking place anytime, anywhere.
  • Learning needs to be personalized.

Learner-centered learning most likely does not sound like anything new to educators and in fact will often be called student-centered classrooms.  It is necessary for us to push to a newer definition or it is just the same old thing with a new twist. Most educators are in the profession because of the student learner and go to great lengths to identify their learning environments as student- or learner-centered. The report identified needs aligned with the foundation elements of Personalized Learning as defined by the Institute @ CESA #1, and aligned with the work of districts in SE Wisconsin.

The report talks of what educators are in need of in a learner-centered environment for their own professional learning.  Professional learning opportunities for educators vary widely in quantity, type, and quality. Professional development ideally should be “a process of continuous improvement for teachers and principals that transforms practice and increases student achievement.” Extensive research emphasizes that effective professional learning opportunities should:

  • be intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice;
  • focus on student learning and address the teaching of specific curriculum content;
  • align with school improvement priorities and goals; and
  • build strong working relationships among teachers.

The excitement for me in reading this report was in knowing that SE WI and the Institute @ CESA #1 are actually implementing learner-centered professional development for educators NOW! As the 2012-13 school year approaches, the first cohorts of educators will be part of a personalized proficiency-based learning for educators network in which thoughts, theory, and vision will be put into action. The tandem path of deep thinking and vision for personalized learning for all learners and putting it to practice is a reality – not just a theoretical or visionary discussion.

In August, a group of educators will be embarking on the path toward an endorsement as a Personalized Learning Educator by creating their own customized learning paths aligned to rigorous skill sets. This initial cohort will be the innovators in challenging the thoughts and theories and making them real in practice. As identified in the research – data regarding the learner is key to customizing the path. Educators will start with a baseline assessment and work with a docent in developing the skills to design their own learning paths to proficiency. As an adult learner they will experience personalized learning and grow to become the facilitator of their student learners’ personalized learning.

So how does this translate into educators creating learner-centered learning? By educators being the learners and understanding it is about the learning first and then teaching. What an exciting time to be an educator, especially in SE Wisconsin.