Part of creating a personalized learning experience is differentiation, and virtual teachers need to consider differentiation in three areas: materials and resources, assessments, and evaluation. In my “title” post I addressed ways a teacher can provide resources and materials to reach a variety of learners, and in “title” post I discussed how teachers can offer choice to students. Both of those areas can and should be planned before the course begins, but once the course begins, the teacher should plan further ways to group students and to supplement instruction for students who are struggling.
Although the Georgia Virtual Learning TOOL lesson presents student data from a Spanish class to analyze, I want to work with some data that’s more familiar, so I can focus on the differentiation more instead of analysis. Let’s return to the data from my “Using the Data” post and look at two different figures. Here they are below:
Figure 1 represents student enrollment, and even before the class begins, the virtual teacher can plan homogenous groups to challenge the gifted students. This cohort could hold separate synchronous sessions with the teacher or by themselves and then report to the class on a given topic. The teacher could assign more complex reading and more involved projects instead of paragraphs. These assignments would give them the chance to apply their learning in a creative form. Students who wanted to write instead could still have the option, but perhaps the teacher could have the student make a tutorial on how to write a well-developed paragraph. This tutorial would be available for the class to use.
Figure 2 represents student engagement within the course, and although this chart does not display how well students are doing on each assignment, the teacher can still use the data to differentiate. For example, a teacher might create heterogeneous groups for weekly study sessions to help keep the less-engaged students on track. The instructor might also assign struggling students a weekly synchronous tutoring session. Students who are quickly running out of tasks within the course should be challenged to go back and evaluate their work and create a portfolio of their best work. A teacher could give rubrics to facilitate this.
In addition to homogenous and heterogeneous grouping and additional discussion groups, the teacher should offer assignments for struggling students based on feedback from formative and summative assessments. Teachers and students can break down student reports on quizzes and tests into individual questions and standards, and this summary will reveal students’ strengths and weaknesses within a particular competency. From there, the teacher could provide additional resources and alternate assignments for the student to review and complete before moving on to the next topic.
Let’s return to Figure 2 to illustrate this process:
The student on the last row has not accessed the LMS at all and has completed 16 of 59 assignments. Let’s pretend that 16/59 represents the score on a summative assessment. Surprisingly, the student did not miss every question, so he/she does not need help in all the standards. The teacher’s first step would be to generate a standard analysis of the test to identify the student’s weaknesses. Then, the teacher needs to talk with the student about why he/she missed certain questions. If the student didn’t understand the materials on the LMS, or in this case, didn’t even access the materials, the teacher needs to investigate why. Perhaps a broader problem is the reason, such as a lack of Internet access. If the student is confused by which resources to do first and how the lessons match the test questions, the teacher and student could plan a content map together matching test questions to lessons. After reworking each lesson, the student should make corrections to the test questions. Once the student reflects on the mistakes, the student needs to complete an alternate assessment to show mastery of the standards. Only then should the student be allowed to continue through the course.
Mid-course, the virtual teacher should be able to identify students who excel and students who are struggling, and the teacher should help students create their own personalized learning path accordingly. Homogeneous and heterogeneous student discussion groups, alternate assignments, additional resources, and tutoring all help create a more personalized learning environment for each student to succeed.