Tod Johnston

Personalized Learning Grounded in Assessment

Discussion created by Tod Johnston on Nov 19, 2016

shutterstock_77120335.jpgDiversity, of all types, is a valuable asset in education. The differences between students’ backgrounds, identities, learning styles, and ability levels enrich our classrooms with opportunities for students to learn from one another. What’s more, exposure to all of our similarities and differences promotes an acceptance of and appreciation for diversity that is foundational in becoming a compassionate, global citizen.


At the same time, I’m sure many of you will agree that crafting lessons and activities that reach the diverse range of ability levels in the typical classroom is one of educators’ most difficult challenges. In an era that demands each and every student demonstrates growth, we recognize that it is no longer enough to deliver lessons that teach to only one ability level. However, tailoring instruction to the individual student is easier said than done. It requires restructuring our classrooms and learning experiences, and it places even more importance on frequent and accurate formative assessments. Without first defining exactly what an individual student knows and what they are ready to learn next, personalized learning isn’t an option.


Teachers frequently rely on intuition, informed from years of experience working with kids, when lesson planning. Additionally, they use ongoing formative assessments—including exit tickets, exemplars of student work, digital and analog classroom polls, mini-conferences, and simple observations—to identify student strengths and areas of needs. More concrete sources of data, like MAP interim assessments, can support teachers as they personalize individual student learning paths by providing exact information about what students know and are ready to learn.


MAP assessment data places students on the Learning Continuum, which provides statements for instructional starting points. By connecting RIT scores to skills and concepts that students are most ready to learn, the Learning Continuum helps teachers create personalized learning goals and targets.


The Learning Continuum can be used in a wide variety of ways to help you make informed instructional decisions. In one such example, NWEA and Khan Academy have partnered to help identify the right learning content for the many different levels of math learners. The resource uses NWEA “norms to suggest appropriate content aligned to the grade level where the student seems ready to learn.”


The Learning Continuum is not meant to be used in isolation or replace your existing assessment practices. Instead, it should be viewed as an additional assessment data point which can be used to reinforce and augment the strategies in your toolkit. With accurate assessment data, teachers are better positioned to meet the diverse needs of all students in their learning communities through personalized learning.


How do you use MAP assessment data and the Learning Continuum to initiate personalized learning? Please share your innovative approaches in the discussion so we can learn from each other.