I was sitting in the Cultures of Thinking workshop yesterday, and I heard a lot of things that resonated with me personally as well as with our work as a whole. None more so than the statement that engaging and powerful learning experiences should have a “low floor and high ceiling”. I took this to mean that all students should be able to enter in to the experience because there is a low barrier to entry. It also means that students should be able to continue to find challenge as they progress, experiencing ever more persistent inquiry to whatever level they need.

I looked in the book, and this is how the idea it is represented:

The key phrase there (for me, at least) is “as far as they wish.” Students should be both allowed and encouraged to think things through as far as they want. To put it another way, they should be able to “personalize” their learning because their teachers have planned for them to do so within a culture of thinking.

I sent that annotated screenshot out on Twitter with the hashtag #ReclaimPL.

I did this for two reasons.

First, I am really tired of software companies claiming that they have a silver bullet for Personalized Learning. I’m tired of adaptive assessment being touted as a panacea, making huge gains for personalized learning when the students are not making any of the choices, the algorithm is. In two articles (here and here)  that were shared with me just last week, these software solutions were touted as both inevitable and essential, and I don’t buy it.

Second, Personalized Learning can be seen in lots of different methods, pedagogies and ideas. It is not new, and it is not exclusive. It is found in the Cultures of Thinking research just as surely as it is found in Montessori practices. It is found in the Marzano research from more than a decade ago and it is found in the “what works” findings from McREL.

And when we see Personalized Learning, both what it is and isn’t, we should say so. We should “reclaim” it so that others aren’t defining it as software making decisions for kids or as something that doesn’t have its roots is great teaching practice.

Anyway, I started a hashtag yesterday as a result of being with my peers and grappling with important cultural forces in classrooms.

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