Weighing Consistency and Personalization - Steve Barkley

Weighing Consistency and Personalization

“Why is the classroom still largely ‘constructed’ by the teacher?” That is the question posed early in the book, The Co-constructed Classroom by Ann Lautrette.

I read The Co-constructed Classroom and recorded a podcast with Ann Lautrette shortly after I had a podcast conversation with Dr. Luvelle Brown, the current Superintendent of the Ithaca City School District, New York, who identified that we often use the term “student-centered” to describe educators making decisions with students central in their thinking. He stressed that really, student centered should mean students being key in the decision-making process. As I reflected on the focus of these two educators, I was reminded of important insights I had gained from several of Sir Ken Robinson’s video presentations. I went back to watch the videos again. (Bring on the Learning Revolution and How to Escape Education’s Death Valley)

Sir Ken Robinson believed that diversity, curiosity, and creativity were critical elements that schools needed to address to nurture students’ full range of talents and potential.

  • Diversity: Robinson identified that while students have diverse strengths, interests, and learning styles, the traditional education system often fails to generate engagement and achievement among students who do not fit the standardized mold. He advocated for an inclusive approach that values and celebrates the unique backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives of every student.
  • Curiosity: According to Robinson, fostering curiosity is crucial for effective learning. Children are naturally curious and eager to explore the world around them, but the rigid structure of traditional schools often suppresses innate curiosity. Encouraging and nurturing students’ questions, allows them to drive their own learning through exploration and inquiry. Curiosity is a spark that ignites a lifelong love of learning.
  • Creativity: Robinson contended that schools stifle creativity by prioritizing subjects like math and science over the arts and humanities, even though creativity is a fundamental skill for solving complex problems and adapting to rapid changes. Robinson advocated for integrating creative subjects into the curriculum and giving students opportunities to express themselves in various ways, through visual arts, music, drama, or other creative outlets.

“Even with a prescriptive curriculum, we can make choices about what we teach, based on who we are teaching.”

                (Ann Laurette, The Co-Constructed Classroom)

Ann Laurette stresses that student decision making engagement in curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment are key to having an inclusive classroom. Those items certainly align with Robinson’s focus on diversity, curiosity, and creativity.

  • Curriculum – Laurette identifies that a co-constructed curriculum is changing, adaptable, responsive and allows for student inquiry into issues which affect them. The curriculum is not totally compartmentalized into discrete subjects without connections between them. A co-constructed curriculum emphasizes real-world problem solving which is relevant to local and global contexts. This curriculum capitalizes on young people’s desire to make a difference in the world.
  • Pedagogy – Relinquishing control and being flexible are key tenets of a co-constructed pedagogy that Laurette suggests are required. Its important to be clear when examining voice and choice that the choices are real. Choosing to write a letter or an email isn’t much decision-making. When teachers control where and what they need to and relinquish control where they can, decisions can more likely meet the needs of the students in front of them. The more that teachers can be flexible in pedagogical approaches the more they can create flexible learners in their students.
  • Assessment– Laurette describes assessment in the co-constructed classroom as learning through assessment. She identifies these elements of co-constructed assessment:

Creativity and originality

Flexible thinking and adaptable approaches

Higher order thing skills

Authentic and relevant to real world

Values student individuality

Emphasizes process and reflection

Uses criteria that align with learning outcomes and skills.

the co-constructed classroom


Personalization and Equity

In an ASCD article, Relevant Curriculum Is Equitable Curriculum, Chaunté Garrett describes why the curriculum teachers are given requires personalization:

 “The problem is that curriculum designers do not always take equity into account. The curricula purchased by districts and schools are often prepared in a standard form to ensure equal access for learners. The content and the manner in which it is presented are designed to be relevant in ways that are very generic to improve their marketability. However, the students who sit in our seats are not standardized. They do not come to school with the same preferences, identities, experiences, contexts, or cultures. To truly be equitable, any curriculum we present to our students must honor who they are. It rests on us, as educators, to build equity within the curriculum we teach so that we can reach each student.”

Instructional coaches and school leaders need to explore with and support teachers in personalizing for maximizing student learning. How can we increase student empowerment to build equity?

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