17 Apr RtI and MTSS: Tips For Personalized Learning
By Joel Thomas, Rubicon International
Creating learning that is specific to the student is difficult but crucial. Maybe you have seen information about UDL, Personalized Learning Pathways, or other frameworks for planning based on the individual student. The 2017 NCTM conference in San Antonio emphasized these approaches in several sessions.
Through Response to Intervention—RtI—and Multi-Tiered System of Supports—MTSS—schools have been encouraged to approach the idea of personalized learning for several years. Unfortunately, there is still a sense of mystery and discomfort around these systems. While tiered instruction does require an intentional effort, many of the strategies that make up tiered instruction and personalized learning may require only small shifts in approach. Here are some clarifications and tips on Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions!
This is not the “personalized learning” tier. While there is certainly scaffolding of instruction and differentiation, this is the “universal” tier. Tier 1 represents the instruction all students are experiencing and allows for students at every level of understanding to engage with the material. Tier 1 tips:
Collect the data:
How many students are negatively struggling with a specific skill? If a large percentage of the class is not understanding the material, then don’t move on to tier 2 interventions as this is a tier 1 issue. Data can be collected by looking at student performance. But, sometimes simply having students use their hands to rate their understanding from zero to five can provide a meaningful check for understanding.
Develop word problems that TEACH a concept:
Using naked numbers on a page may be helpful in getting kids to practice a procedure consistently and quickly, but it is a poor way to teach them what they are doing with those numbers. Starting with a relatable, short narrative provides context for learning that teachers can reference repeatedly and use to dive deeper into the material. When we start with numbers or tell kids to look for key words in a word problem, we are telling them to ignore the context that makes the procedure meaningful.
The video below asks the question “how old is the shepherd?” Take a minute and watch how students engage with this question based on the information provided.
Conduct diagnostic interviews:
Apply this strategy when trying to identify student understanding or when helping students put their learning into new contexts. Forming connections to material in new contexts is called “Relational Understanding”. The more connections we have students make to the content, the deeper their understanding will go. With this, students with advanced understanding can improve their depth of knowledge. At the same time, students at lower levels of mastery may find they can explain a concept in pictures when words fail them. Learn more about diagnostic interviews here.
This is the “personalized learning” tier, which provides supplemental instruction for students who don’t grasp material when it’s initially taught. Often (but not always), these students are facing additional emotional, cognitive, or physiological barriers. Tier 2 is the “intervention” tier and is targeted based on the student’s need. Tier 2 tips:
Individualized assessment is not individualized instruction:
Students in need of tier 2 intervention are typically not great with independent learning, so giving them additional worksheets is not going to lead to improved understanding. Instead, spend time on already completed problems, reviewing both right and wrong answers. Having students review a single problem and explain how they reached their conclusion will instantly lead to more context for the teacher. Both teachers and students can be use that context to correct misconceptions.
*Beware of “personalized learning” software that really just puts worksheets on the computer.
Slow it down:
During independent practice time, don’t give students a page of practice problems. Instead, give students 1 problem and have them show every step and—subsequently—explain (to the teacher or a partner) exactly what steps they took and why. Once they finish, introduce the next problem. The problems can be the same that everyone else is doing, but try putting each problem on a half sheet of paper. This procedure can drastically change how independent practice works with no extra planning and prep time.
RtI and MTSS seek to change the way we teach by placing the individual learner at the center of instruction. Challenge the one-size-fits-all approach and watch your students grow.