Change is a very difficult process, especially in a school, but after much research and discussion, staff, school board and community meetings and conversations with parents and teachers, the Edgemont School District moved forward with customized learning.
“Our teachers have really been searching for a way to better reach students and to ensure they are actually mastering the concepts we are teaching them, not simply getting exposure,” Assistant Principal Amy Ferley said.
“Since our school is so small, we already have a close relationship with students and know them quite well; it makes sense to use those relationships to better the education experience.”
The district combined its Kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms with two teachers in order to group and regroup students according to their needs with the third through fifth grade teachers working together to group and regroup students across grade levels as well, focusing on a math unit as well as reading groups.
“At this point, our elementary levels are all in customized learning,” Ferley said.
“We have combined grade level classrooms in order group and regroup learners according to their learning levels, rather than their ages.”
In the middle school, teachers are working together between classrooms to help students learn at their own pace and levels and at the high school level, individual teachers are flipping their classrooms and customizing learning.
“In the middle and high school, there is a lot more self-paced learning happening, especially in the English classroom, as well as more customized units in other classes,” Ferley said.
“The technology teacher has done a lot of project-based learning and is also using self-paced assignments. Our middle and high school science teachers are working on improving learner agency.”
In the customized learning model, students have to take more responsibility for their learning, trying a concept and problem solving before running to the teacher to have them approve every step of the learning process.
Ferley said overall students have appreciated the self-paced work, in that those who master a concept quickly do not have to wait for the rest of the class to understand it before moving on, and those who struggle with a concept do not feel pressured that they are the only person in the room not getting it.
“We know that not every student learns in the same way or on the same day,” Ferlsey said.
“We hope that by teaching students in the way that they learn and by giving them more of the responsibility to learn at their own pace and at their own level, they will be more excited about learning and carry that love of learning into their adult lives.”