Monday, March 7, 2011

Session 3 - Question 3

Do you believe it is important to individualize or customize learning for gifted students in middle school? Why or Why not? Support your answer with pages from the reading.


  1. Darn, once again, my post got dropped. I said that I think that it is important to individualize or customize learning for gifted students in the middle school. This has been seen in research for the last 25 years (156). I think that learning should be as customized/individualized as possible for all students, regardless of their abilities. Perhaps all students should have IEPs. Lots of paperwork, but it could help the students maximize their potential.

    Instruction should be made relevant to all students. When people "connect" with information, it is easier to internalize, store, and use with prior or future knowledge (163).

    I did agree when they suggested that "when gifted students are allowed to co-create their lesson goals, they are given further opportunities to individualize class lessons to their individual learning styles" (191).

    It seems to me that most of the information that I have read in this book that pertains to instruction would pertain to all students. In my opion, these are just good teaching practices.

  2. I agree with Elizabeth H that it is important to individualize /customize for gifted students. I also agree that most of the practices that would be successful with gifted children would also enhance the learning all children. With all of our new technology, I think we have been doing a better job of offering choice of topic and choice of presentation. I agree with Elizabeth when she says it is a lot of work. I want to offer more ways for students to grasp the necessary information but time and frustration usually get in my way. We spend a lot of time trying to make technology work. When I feel the clock ticking I tend to fall back on my old routines.

  3. I have to be honest here, rather than simply giving the expected answer.

    I disagree.

    I noticed the same quote that Elizabeth cited on page 191. "When gifted students are allowed to co-create their lesson goals, they are given further opportunities to individualize class lessons to their individual learning styles."

    I highly disagree with this statement. I disagree because two assumptions are made by this statement:

    1. This statement presumes that the students desire learning at the expense of immediate gratification.

    2. This statement presumes that the students understand what will best help them, rather than just what they will enjoy the most.

    Both of the assumptions are dangerous. Knowledge without wisdom is useless.

    For example, I know that exercise and a healthy diet are important, and yet in spite of that knowledge, I still enjoy my sloth and my cheeseburgers.

    The psyche of a child is not mature enough to comprehend that that which is more difficult is sometimes more important in the long run.

    While I understand the utility, and the empowering nature of giving students a voice in their education process, I also recognize that the rising generation is more interested in playing XBox than reading a book. Immediate gratification is the enemy of the educational process.

    I have a dear friend who destroyed his kidneys, because when left to his own devices, he chose to eat Skittles rather than grains and vegetables for every meal for nearly two months.

    I think we give simultaneously both too much credit, and not enough credit, to the students we teach.
    Too much, by assuming that they're mature enough to always make the right choices for the altruistic reasons.
    And not enough, because we don't expect them to understand and accept the consequences, no matter how unpleasant, of those choices.

    Individualization of the lesson plans is a useful tool, but if I were given the choice of never writing a term paper in class every again, I'd clearly make that choice. However, that choice would be motivated by my own laziness, not because I think I've mastered the art of professional writing.

    It's a hard lesson for a student to learn that sometimes they must do hard things for good reasons with no expectation of reward. It's hard thing for any person to learn.

  4. In response to dock on the bay's comment on March 20th, 8:26pm-

    I too have been guilty of finding myself incredibly frustrated with flawed technology. I am quick to reach for the dry-erase marker and draw rather than use a power point.

    However, I think students don't learn or comprehend any better by seeing something in flashing lights and sounds as they do with markers. I think it's fun for a time to see teachers use those tools, but when they become common-place and expected, the novelty wears off and students begin to dismiss it again, waiting for the next new thing.

    I think the goal was originally conceived to be that the technology would help them "connect" more, and internalize the information by making it more interesting.

    But in a world that gets progressively louder and flashier each day, I fear that we'll all find ourselves metaphorically screaming into the white noise wondering why were aren't being heard.

    Don't be ashamed to fall back on GOOD teaching habits, even if they aren't as new. :)

  5. Do I think it's important to individualize instruction? Yes and no. Of course we should give students instruction appropriate to their level to avoid depression, isolation or underachieving, as stated on pg. 140. I also think that as students move into college and out of school, they won't have any such luxury. Life dosen't always differentiate!

  6. Reading through pages 165- 167, I keep thinking of some of the wonderful teaching and learning I've seen at WAIS lately using some insight from CCP. Jim I. let the students in his room set up their next unit working in small teams to define the major concept/big themes and harvest vocabulary they need -not what we think they need. I've watched students under Laura S. design their own study guide for an upcoming exam since they know best what they still are confused by and what they have mastered. These are simple ways that support customization in learning.
    I use learning logs and rubrics. I am hoping to move further into the students helping define the rubric descriptors for the levels and also develop models of quality at scaffolded levels. These would be collaborative activities.

  7. Where to start, there are many various comments that I can relate to on different levels just as a GT student does.
    In response to Mr. Maddocks, on page 170 the author mentions that too much choice does override learning and that's where teachers and guidance come in. Controlled choice does benefit students but everyday might not be realistic.
    I do think we have some tools to help us balance everything and provide more than we are right now.
    The MYP reflection piece, use of rubrics and grade descriptors can help us provide more of these type opportunities. It does take work and time and it also can be done in a traditional way or through digital media.

  8. Not completely sold on either side...I do understand the importance of different learning styles therefore students will learn based on their "distictive intelligences" however, from the reading and experience in my class giving the students too much freedom with choices will result in some students not challenging themselves.

  9. I agree with the comment Cheryl made regarding balance, and too much choice from page 170. I like the point Cheryl made, "Controlled choice does benefit students but everyday might not be realistic."

  10. O.k. I lost my post and all of my thoughts. So I basically said that I like a combination of both customization and using good practices that I know will work. I understand that the customization will help students relate to the subject or topic through individualization. I love the idea on pg. 163 of creating your opener so that it appeals to a variety of students' interest or strengths. This in turn helps them make a personal connection leading to greater retention. And this personal connection will have greater meaning to them later. However, I am with Mr. Maddocks that the old somewhat less shiny practices are o.k. to use and sometimes do really work. You don't always have to have an orchestra, bright lights, and a slide show!
    And lastly, I agree with T. Williams and C. Wegs that balance is key esp. when it comes to choices. Sometimes choice makes my bright students lazy and less likely to choose the more challenging option, as T. Williams also said on Mar. 20th! And I have found that my weaker students do not always make good choices so I do have to use guided choices as the books suggests or just flat out step in and make the choice for them!

  11. Individualized instruction sounds good in theory. We can differentiate instruction to get everyone in class to the same level and push those capable beyond what they can do. But the reality is as stated on page 156 students are being assessed based on state mandated standardized tests.

    As more of these state mandated exams come through the pipeline, individualized instruction will become harder and harder to do.

    I agree with Mr. Maddocks, while I love technology in my classroom, I use my electronic board because I never have to erase anything I write on it and I can post it online after each class so kids have a choice to copying notes or just downloading it when they get home. I also give my students choices on which problems they want for homework and how many questions they should have on their quiz. I've even trained my algebra 2 students to come up with questions that should be included on their quizzes and why they should be included.

    But balance is the key as stated by T. Williams and C. Wegs.

  12. Yes, I do think that it is important to individualize learning to an extent. I think that offering too much choice can also be hazardous as well. I found page 165 interesting which discussed guided choice and diifferent ways to offer students choice in their learning.

  13. I agree with the comment Mr. Maddocks made regarding guided choices -- "The psyche of a child is not mature enough to comprehend that that which is more difficult is sometimes more important in the long run". I have experienced similar issues with some of my students.

  14. I alos agree with Mr. Maddocks and C. Wegsheid in that students sometimes are not mature enough to understand which choice is best for them and also that guided choice is good, but not realistic everyday.

  15. I think there needs to be a balance. We could easily argue that all students need "customized learning", not just our GT students. I do believe that if we provide guided choice, all students will have opportunities to study areas of interest within a topic and create learning products using their individual strengths and talents. This is supported on p. 166 when it said "Choice for gifted students engages, supports, and values their extended learning." I also think it is essential that there are some whole group lessons and activities. All of the students can benefit in whole group discussions, merely by having the opportunity of listening to others and to different points of view.

  16. Responding to T Williams, I think it is important for us to maintain high expectations with the concept of "Guided Choice". I suppose this is where we need to give some strong "coaching" when our students make choices that are not going to help them achieve or learn. Maybe there are times when we need to intervene and help them make better choices. As challenging as it can be, if our kids are going to be successful in life, they will need to learn how to make good choices.

  17. Valerie H... I agree that balance is the key. In middle school, many students have not had enough life experiences to really understand why it is important to study and do their best, because the reward is not in the present. I talk to my own 7th grade daughter about a token economy... she is being "paid" with grades that later (too much later for her) can be turned into opportunities. So giving some choice is good, because it helps them learn to make decisions and to try out various ways of thinking and strategies. But too much choice can be overpowering and the payoff is not immediate. As many have pointed out, we are a society that wants instant gratification.

    There may be a reason for ability grouping at times, other times heterogeneous; sometimes giving students choices is good... and we do want them to learn to think for themselves and learn to make decisions. I agree with Cheryl that balance is important.

  18. As Willis states on p. 162, "Teachers and administrators must strive for flexibility. When lessons are adapted for individual intelligences, talents, and abilities, gifted students are more likely to connect to the knowledge and build realational memories with successful patterning of new data." This is of course is the ideal and much more difficult to put into practice to do in an everyday classroom situation. As others have stated already students in middle school are often not mature enough to be responsible for making their own choices and so it is important that they are guided into making good choices. Willis points out why it is important to give students this guided choice on p. 165-166, mostly to build learners that can learn from their mistakes and overcome challenges. Important lifeskills everyone needs.

  19. I believe that there is a balance that needs to be met here. (p. 170) I don’t think that handing over full reign to the child will help them in the long run, but I do think that they need some say in their learning. I was an incredibly bored middle school student, who did the bare minimum it took to get A’s and B’s. I never felt comfortable enough to say that I needed some more challenge, even though deep down I knew I needed it. I poured my desire for challenge in learning to play the piano and the flute. I made that choice, and because of that, I never complained about the amount of practicing I needed to do. I wonder if just one of the teachers had taken the time to try and challenge me in my courses if I would be more of a risk taker today.

  20. In response to T. Williams, I agree that giving the students too much freedom will in the end hinder their learning. Teachers guiding these choices and reflecting with the students about the choices that they have made will have long lasting effects on students. These life lessons are rarely taught, and imagine how much more prepared our young adults will be in the real world if people have guided them in making choices for themselves.

  21. Like C.Weg said. Balance, balance, balance.

    Individualized instruction, What does that look like in a budget crunch? Smaller, ability grouped classes? I think not.

    We must find balance in what we offer students and what we expect of teachers..