What is Personalized Learning?
Personalized learning means that learning starts with the learner. Learning is tailored to the individual needs of each learner instead of by age or grade level. It is more than teaching the same to everyone or “one size fits all” or even changing furniture. Personalized Learning takes a holistic view of the individual, skill levels, interests, strengths and challenges, and prior knowledge. The learner understands how they learn and is motivated to own and drive their learning.
Why do we need to move to Personalized Learning?
Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 130 years. Most U.S. schools are based on this model and focus too much on teaching to the test. Learners are unchallenged and unengaged by traditional models so they are searching for any alternative that they know: online courses, home schools, or maybe even dropping out. As a result, too many schools are closing and too many teachers are leaving the profession or being laid off. When this happens, communities suffer.
However, each person is unique and needs to be taught in a personalized fashion. After years of teaching “one size fits all,” and seeing it fail, learners are demanding to meet what they want to learn and address their personal needs. We cannot continue to teach out-dated strategies to prepare learners for their future. Instead, we need to create a different mindset that recognizes and validates each student as a learner.
The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent, compliant role and become the owner of their learning. Personalizing learning will help your students increase their scores because they will own their learning. As a result, they will use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and future ready for today’s and tomorrow’s workplace.
Why has it been so tough to move to Personalized Learning?
Teachers have mentioned to me that they were not taught to teach personalized learning strategies or understand how they can incorporate it within the constraints of everything they are expected to do. Teachers need help in designing strategies that encourage students to take responsibility for their learning. Yet, educators only know what they know and don’t know what they don’t know.
Teachers, administrators, learners, and parents are all essential pieces of the puzzle. Parents know their children but only know how they themselves were taught and may not be aware of learner-centered strategies. Additionally, administrators have so much to do and are overwhelmed with the task of just managing the school. Teachers are busy with full class sizes and testing demands. Students are losing interest in school and many are not motivated to learn. As a result, many schools feel it is easier to continue with the “status quo” and traditional school fundamentals even if they are not improving test scores or preparing children for what they need.
What does Personalized Learning look like?
A personalized learning environment is competency-based where students progress at their own pace instead of by their age or grade levels. There is no more “mandated” seat time. The learner has their own learning path with multiple strategies and resources to meet their different learning needs. This changes the teacher role and the whole learning environment.A school doesn’t look like “traditional school” anymore.
Learners are co-designers of the curriculum with the teachers. Teachers are co-learners with the learners. The teacher doesn’t have to be the hardest working person in the classroom; the learners need to be. They want to learn because they have a voice and choice about the topic and understand what they need to learn based on how they learn best. They want to succeed so they try harder. They succeed because they designed their learning goals.
Want to personalize learning for your students?
Here are some strategies that can help you on your journey to personalize learning:
- Design a pre-assessment to determine the current status of teaching and learning.
- Create the shared vision with all of your stakeholders for your new direction.
- Help teachers understand how the brain works and how learners learn best.
- Design learner profiles for your students.
- Provide research on personalized learning and what it could look like in their school.
- Demonstrate how to make this change in the classroom.
- Design project-based learning with student voice and choice.
- Video the process and interview teachers and students on the journey to personalize learning.
- Coordinate a showcase and online space to demonstrate evidence of learning.
- Design and implement a post-assessment to measure success.
If you find you need support on your journey to personalize learning, please reach out to me. Personalized learning makes it fun for everyone to want to learn including you.