How did they carry out the best practice?
We are two simultaneous teachers of Paraistenseudun koulu, a comprehensive school in the Finnish archipelago. Our students are 13-16 years of age. One of us is a mathematics teacher and the other one a special needs teacher specialized in mathematics. Our problem has been the great heterogeneity of our teaching groups: the weak are really weak and the most talented can handle high school assignments. In the meantime, the average student has often been neglected. We started looking for a solution to the problem on the Internet and came across a method of personalized learning. That seemed to be the answer to our problems. We developed the method to serve the needs of our school. This personalized mobile learning enables learning regardless of time, place or technology. We have now used the method of personalized mobile learning in mathematics at out school for over four years now. During this time, the enthusiasm for studying mathematics has clearly grown and the atmosphere has improved and even some of the decisions on intesified support have been abolished. A personalized learning method responds well to everyone’s needs.
In the method the teacher doesn’t teach all the contents of the course sequentially according to a pre-established timetable. This prevents the accumulation of small misconceptions or informational deficiencies into a bigger problem. The method also improves the student’s perception of their own learning process and understanding of the learning objectives. In addition the personalized learning method enables each student to progress independently from one topic to another. This gives slower learners more time to learn the most basic skills, while more talented learners get more time to learn the most difficult topics. If someone is ill or fails for any other reason to study sufficiently, in the method of personalized learning, he or she won’t get behind since each learner will determine his or her own pace.
Math courses make the most of tutorial videos and online assignments found on the course pages in Google Classroom. The benefit of classroom recordings is that they are flexible: the student can start and pause the recording at any time of their choice, search for a specific point or repeat the same video many times. In our courses, common theory lectures have been replaced with instructional videos that students can watch independently via the Internet, at home, or at school. The teacher doesn’t teach theory to the whole class, but the students study the theory either independently or in small groups. The teacher can also teach difficult issues personally to a particular student or a small group of a few students who are in the same phase of their studies. So math is taught at every lesson and almost all the time, but not to everyone at the same time. In this way, the learning of each student is at the same time completely personalized and communal peer learning.
An electronic study card based on the textbook used has been prepared for the students in the spreadsheet program. There you will find the course objectives, required tasks and assessment criteria. Students make a study schedule for themselves on their study card. The student’s own responsibility and at the same time his freedom increases. We constantly monitor, guide, and help students progress. Everyone’s course is sure to be completed and at least the basics learned, but not at the same time and with the same content.
The tasks on the credit card are grouped by level so that the student can easily select tasks that match his or her skills, goals, resources, and time available. We always encourage students to try some more challenging tasks as well. Students still use the traditional pen-on-paper method when calculating maths from their own will. (There is also a paper version of the student card, if the student finds it more appropriate for his or her own way of studying.) After calculating the assignment, the student marks it on the student card, which automatically calculates the percentage of the assignments made. At the same time, both the teacher and the pupil are always aware of how much the pupil has calculated and what level of tasks they have. The students have exemplary solutions available for checking assignments.
We walk around in the classroom all the time asking if our help is needed. If so, we will explain the ambiguous section in question to the student just as we would do when teaching the whole class at the same time. The idea behind this method is that now the student can choose the most appropriate way to study. If he or she needs teacher-led instruction, we’ll do it, but not in front of the classroom, but besides the student’s desk. If the student wants to go on his or her own, this is also possible.
When the common task review and some of the unnecessary theory repetitions are eliminated from the classroom, more time is left for the individual guidance of the student.
The course consists not only of assignments but also computer exercises, teamwork and tests. When the students feel that they master the topic, they take an electronic test. Most assignments are self-correcting, so the students receive immediate feedback on their skills. The student tries to solve the incorrect answers with the help of the material. Once a sufficient level of know-how has been achieved, the student may proceed to the next topic. If the test goes poorly and there is no solution found even with the material, we will provide remedial instruction. The idea is that the student understands the previous topic before moving on to the new one.
Project work teaches not only teamwork skills but also information retrieval, source criticism, and a chance to apply the things you have learned. The grade for the course is based on the points the student earns on the exercises, computer exercises, project work, lesson activity, and intermediate tests. At the end of the course, we will have an evaluation discussion with the student. We will discuss how the student has completed the course and achieved the goals he or she has set. The grade is the conclusion of the discussion.