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It’s clear that we are living in a fluid situation especially when it comes to education. The where and how our children will be “in school” next year is in flux. So many logistics are still to be decided from environment to instructional delivery to transportation and so on. And, for many of us, these decisions will be out of our hands.

However, our charge and commitment remain the same—to educate our students to the best of our abilities. The good news is the decisions about what our children need to learn and what we can do to support our children’s learning are in our hands.

So, how do we leverage what we know about learning to ensure this happens? How do we proactively plan for any learning environment?

The Phases of the Learning Process

First, consider the learning process—those phases that any learner follows to acquire a new skill to mastery.

  • Initial Instruction: the phase when learners first hear about a new skill and how to acquire it
  • Practice: the phase when learners have multiple and various opportunities to practice the new skill with guidance and feedback
  • Apply: the phase when learners have opportunities to authentically apply the new skill
  • Transfer: the phase when learners understand how to transfer the skill into various situation
  • Mastery: the phase when learners independently use the skill and can articulate how the skill was used in learning

Once learners have completed each of these phases, they can say, with evidence, that they have mastered the skill.

The Responsibilities for Teachers and Students in the Learning Process

In a traditional school setting, all of these phases are usually completed within the classroom and directed by the teacher. However, in this new paradigm, there is a greater likelihood that the students will have to take charge of some of these phases themselves and complete them at home by their own volition.

So, it is the responsibility of the teacher to make the decisions around what skills to teach, what order to teach them in, which phases in the learning process to release responsibility to the students, and how to communicate these decisions to the students.

If kids know where they are in the learning process, they have more opportunities to master the skills they need to master.

How to Proactively Plan

Our task in this new paradigm is to ensure that students understand the learning process, the purpose of each phase, and the value of looking at learning as a continuous cycle of growth. We must plan our units and lessons to support this understanding.

For each phase of the Learning Process teachers will need to ask themselves:

  • What is the learning outcome of this phase? What will students need to show to demonstrate learning?
  • What will be the role of the teacher?
  • What will be the role of the student?
  • Is this phase better completed in a face-to-face environment, in a virtual environment, or independently?
Purpose of Phase
Additional Planning Questions
Initial Instruction First introduction to a new skill
  • Is this a discrete skill that requires direct instruction from the teacher or a skill that could be better introduced through student exploration?
  • How will I ensure my students understand the purpose and value of this phase?
Practice Opportunities to practice the new skill with guidance and feedback
  • How will I monitor students’ learning while they practice?
  • How will the students receive feedback?
  • How will I release the practice, during the lesson and/or over time, as student learning allows for more independence?
  • How will I ensure my students understand the purpose and value of this phase?
Application Authentic application of the skill
  • How does this opportunity differ from practice?
  • How will I ensure my students understand the purpose and value of this phase?
Transfer Independent application of the skill to new situations
  • How will I provide opportunities for the transfer of the skill?
  • How will I ensure my students understand the purpose and value of this phase?
Mastery Independent usage of the skill when needed and articulation of how the skill was used in learning
  • What does mastery look like and how will my students know they have mastered a skill?
  • How will I ensure my students understand the purpose and value of this phase?

The Advantages of Proactive Planning

Planning during this new paradigm may feel daunting. Especially as we compound it with the learning of new technology and the realities that come with students learning from home.

But learning in this new environment can provide us with expanded opportunities. This could include freeing up time for teachers to work with students individually or providing additional opportunities for students to collaborate with classmates. The online and face-to-face components can work together to create a comprehensive and cohesive learning experience for students. The increased responsibility for students in the learning process will create independence and ownership of their learning.

But all of this requires thoughtful planning. Planning that ensures that we will end up being the most independent generation of learners we have ever produced. Thus, as we plan next year, we must ensure that we do not produce the lost generation of children with too many gaps in their learning. We must ensure that we produce the most independent generation of learners we have ever seen in the United States.

The Learning Brief

In this article you learned…
  • The benefits of proactive planning for any learning environment.
  • The phases of the learning process.
  • How to leverage the phases of the learning process when planning and teaching to empower students in their learning.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

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