Personalization is an important concept that has been around for a while and that we have worked with partner schools on over years of small school coaching. The Small Schools Project defines it as ‘a learning environment where all students are known well.” That builds a foundation for learning, but the foundation needs to be built on.
Now we work with partner schools and teachers to develop “learning partnerships” with students, a concept that is rooted in personalization but goes one step further to build relationships for the specific purpose of directly improving a student’s academic skills. These partnerships set the stage for the teacher’s effective use of formative assessment and the student’s conscious movement toward independent, self-directed learning.
There are three components of a learning partnership:
– Cognitive insight
Establishing a level of rapport with individual students and the classroom community as a whole creates a positive learning environment and builds trust so that students are not so guarded and defensive. This is especially important for struggling students who try to cover up their low achievement by acting out or trying to be invisible during class. One of the most important ways to build rapport is working toward cultural synchronization.
Once rapport has been established, it is important to move toward building an alliance with the focal student – explicitly identifying a goal or “learning target” and making a pact to work together in the service of improving that identified skill or concept understanding. The alliance stage of learning partnerships is critical.
Positive rapport and a strong alliance pave the way for the teacher to gain an understanding of how a particular student is learning, called cognitive insight. It is at this stage that the deep work of interventions takes place. The teacher is able to help the student correct misconceptions as well as learn to use new strategies effectively so that he is able to self-correct and learn more independently, hence setting the stage to accelerate his own learning.