Day 3 in Austria: Personalized Learning—Austrian Style

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AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech with students in the International Class at the Pedagogic College of Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg, Austria—There is a lab school at the Pedagogic College of Salzburg that serves students in grades 1-4, which is a typical Austrian Primary school. Professor Deborah Pelzmann, the principal of the school, is charged with developing innovative practices in education and introducing students at the Pedagogic College to those practices.

I was delighted to discover that personalized learning is the prevailing practice for the schools. Professor Pelzmann is proud that students at the school take responsibility for their own learning, and are always taught at the level that is appropriate for them.

Teachers seldom “lecture” their classes. Every week, students fill out their schedules detailing which subject they will take, what time they will take it and for how long. At any given time you can find a mixture of students from all four grades working on the same activity, provided that it is suitable for their ability level at that time.

We had the opportunity to visit with students in the International class, which is taught primarily in English. I approached a second grader working on an activity with a fourth grader and I asked him if he spoke English. He looked at me as if that was the dumbest question he had ever heard. His response: “Of course I speak English. I also speak German and Japanese.”

Student teachers at the College spend time in the lab school classroom beginning in their very first semester Professor Pelzmann is hoping to train a new generation of teachers for whom the personalized learning approach will be the only way to teach.

Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is blogging throughout AASA’s International Seminar Delegation in Austria.

Day 2 in Austria: Austrian Love for Teaching & Learning

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AASA President David Schuler with 3rd grade students at St. Polten Primary School

St. Polten, Austria – As a former building administrator and now with AASA, there are certain signs I look for when I first walk into a classroom to tell me if I am in the presence of a good teacher. In Senta Seidel’s third grade class, I saw students physically clinging to her as if they were afraid she might leave them. I asked a young lady why they were clinging to their teacher. She answered, “Because we love her.” Ms. Seidel made it clear—she loves her students in return.

Primary schools in Austria are grades 1-4. Ending at lunch time, it is a relatively short day for students, but child care is offered after school. Students also have the option to avail themselves for extra assistance from their teachers should they need it.

Austria, like many other European countries, is being inundated by Syrian refugees. As many as 10,000 refugees are coming into Austria every day. Many of the refugee children are finding their ways to school doors and are asking for admission.

Unfortunately, schools are not receiving any additional governmental support to deal with the crisis. Consequently the school head mistress turns to the staff and asks them to do whatever they can for the children, and they do. That is why teachers like Ms. Seidel are loved.

It is heartwarming to see that, regardless of the country we visit on these international seminars, teachers and principals are always there to go the extra mile for their students.

Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is blogging throughout AASA’s International Seminar Delegation in Austria.