- Blane McCann, superintendent of Westside Community Schools in Omaha, NE, discusses the application of Professor Joseph Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) as a way to personalize learning in this District Administration article.
- SEM can serve as an entry point for personalized learning because in an SEM cluster, students help drive their own learn with the aid of a “cluster facilitator” who leads class discussion to help students determine their personal learning paths.
- Teachers and facilitators use five main elements to personalize learning, improve student achievement and improve both teacher and student engagement scores: These elements are: knowing your students; voice and choice; flexible groups, spaces and mindsets; data-information, and technology support.
Increasing student engagement is a remarkable asset to any educational setting. If students are engaged, they work harder and learn more easily, improving the educational experience for teachers and students alike. Some schools are now experimenting with the idea of giving students a stronger voice not only in issues involving student life and extracurricular activities, but also in curriculum choices as well.
The work of Dr. Joseph Renzulli has gained a lot of attention in this respect. Though his award-winning work began with the idea of tapping into the intellectual passions of gifted and talented students and using these passions to create personalized learning pathways, he expanded that notion to form the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Though these ideas may not work in every situation, they have seen some success and are well-worth exploring.
There are some limitations to this idea, of course. Every student, for example, should learn reading and math. Many students would opt out of learning algebra if given a choice and would then miss out on the potential careers such knowledge and skills can lead to. However, within reason, allowing students a greater voice in their own education can only help engage them in learning. In college, students are granted the freedom of choosing courses within a general framework. Perhaps expanding this idea to students earlier on can help them see how their education can impact their future.