FARMINGTON — By the time today’s education majors become teachers, customized learning will have changed the classrooms of their childhood dramatically.

A group of area teachers already experiencing these changes gathered this week to talk about mass customized learning and answer questions from University of Maine at Farmington students, faculty members and teachers about how the system is working in Maine schools.

Linda Laughlin, assistant superintendent of Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, led the discussion with a panel of four other teachers within the district, as part of an ongoing series hosted by UMF on the history and changing nature of teaching.

The new system, as with most standards-based education systems, teaches individual students the required material at their own pace. The school district was one of the first in the state to start the transition to the new education system, and state education leaders hope to see it fully applied at all Maine public schools within a decade.

Laughlin, who is also a UMF faculty member, said the face of education has dramatically changed since today’s university students were in grade school. Under the new system, teachers rarely teach a large group, instead working with students in small groups, helping them reach learning goals that show a level of proficiency.

“In the 21st century, we don’t want only education for all but proficiency for all,” she said.

Devin Fitzgerald, a senior elementary education major at the forum, said it’s important for her to stay up to date on proficiency based learning practices as she prepares to interview for teaching jobs.

“A lot of schools are moving toward customized learning,” she said. “It’s crazy how much it’s changed just in the four years that I’ve been here.”

She said that at W.G. Mallett School in Farmington where she student teaches, the staff already is trying to take steps toward standards-based learning.

Laughlin said when she interviews teachers applying to work in the district, she’s starting to encounter teachers familiar with proficiency-based learning and said eventually teachers will be expected to be familiar with it.

This year, she started seeing teachers applying to work at the school district because it let them teach using mass customized learning, she said.

Teachers on the panel said some of the challenges of the new learning system include the teachers learning to coordinate together and explaining the new system to parents.

Panel member Elizabeth Firnkes, who teaches at Messalonskee Middle School, said the teachers had to learn to work together with grouping students according to the learning goal they needed to achieve.

They agreed the biggest success of the program was students achieving by learning at their own pace.

“A lot of the initial challenges were adult issues and the successes were students,” said panel member Jen Brown, who teaches at James Bean School in Sidney.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252[email protected]