Episode 038: Helping every educator create a competent classroom, with Allison Zmuda.

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Allison Zmuda is a full-time education consultant who works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.  Allison Zmuda began as a public high school teacher in Newtown, Connecticut. Her passion for her students and her innovative spirit inspired the writing of her first book: The Competent Classroom (2001). Zmuda made the transition from classroom to consultant in 2002 — primarily specializing with a handful of long-term clients (PK-12) on multi-year projects to support learning as defined by school and community goals. She also continues to create and has gone on to write seven more books, including Transforming Schools (2004),Breaking Free from Myths of Teaching and Learning (2010), Real Engagement: How do I help my students become motivated, confident, self-directed learners? (2015), and her most recent book Learning Personalized: The evolution of a contemporary classroom (2015). In addition, Zmuda launched and curates an online community Learning Personalized to share ideas, innovators, and accomplishments of students, parents, and educators.



What is one thing that makes you unique as a thought leader?
I am a teacher at heart and I still pride myself with having ideas and actions with the heart and a mindset of a teacher.

What about being on the forefront of this movement gives you the greatest fulfillment?
Going to a school where I feel like I am part of a team.


Please share with us a story of a time when you got to know a student beyond their academic performance where you think you made a significant impact in their life.
I had two young ladies in one of my 9th grade classes who were not interested in what I had to give.  I came up with manageable and intriguing challenges to see if I could get them to engage.  They both ended up going from the lowest class to a junior year standing class.


What is it about the personalized learning pedagogy you believe will have the greatest impact on education as we know it today?
It can be grounded in four basic attributes-Voice, co-creation, social construction and self discovery.


Can you tell us a story of a time that you persevered through a then-challenging situation which now serves as a great life lesson?
When I was 38 I had a stroke and lost the ability to communicate.  I had to re teach myself to communicate, which was very humbling but also a very challenging  process.


What one strategy would you suggest teachers in personalized learning environments apply every day that would result in powerful outcomes?
Come up with an idea, take an action, see to what degree it works and continue through that cycle.

Imagine you are standing in front of a room full of educators – just like you when you started your personalized learning journey. They too have fears, worries and doubts as they struggle to find their footing. What are one to two key things they should focus on to ensure success?
You have to understand where it is you are going after. Go after these broader aspirations.




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