When a new teacher makes the transition from college to the classroom, what supports are in place to set him or her up for success? That is at the heart of what Kia Turner focuses on in her work with teachers.
Questions she hears a lot?
“How do I make sure my students are actually learning?”
“How do I create an environment where they can learn?”
“How do I continue my own learning?”
At KnowledgeWorks, our definition of personalized learning is rooted in our belief that all children can learn, should be challenged to take ownership of their learning as individuals and empowered with the academic knowledge and social-emotional skills they need for the future.
For any of that to happen, we need strong teachers with strong support systems.
In our research for The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers, we talked to 48 teachers form more than 30 schools and 19 districts, all of whom were implementing personalized learning in their classrooms. Among the conditions identified for a successful implementation of personalized learning were supports for teachers in the form of professional development and leadership development.
According to the paper, “professional development was the most discussed topic throughout the interviews. Just as students receive customized supports, districts should provide personalized supports for their teachers and engage them in the creation of professional development opportunities.”
Burning out is an unfortunate reality for some teachers who aren’t getting the supports that they need. Turner’s experiences with Kansas City Missouri teachers is that what often happens is that lessons learned in teacher preparation don’t align with lived classroom reality. And without supports – be they mentors, professional development or strong leadership – teachers can start to second guess themselves and think they aren’t cut out for teaching. In that scenario, everyone loses.
“Teachers need to see themselves as learners,” Turner said. She’s one of the people helping them on their learning journeys.
A classroom teacher for 10 years herself, Turner is now partnering with teachers to help them answer some of the questions they’re voicing. She’s also trying to support new teachers so that good teachers keep teaching.
“Because I came out of a high-needs community as a kid, I see at as my service to go back to that community and help teachers to do great things with kids,” Turner said. While her work is not specifically centered on personalized learning, she is helping to create the conditions for success for personalized learning to take place – for students and for teachers.
In doing the research for The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers, we interviewed teachers, instructional coaches and principals to explore what drives educators to build personalized learning environments in the classroom.