What is personalized learning?
My school district is embracing a personalized learning initiative, and I’ve been doing some research on the concept as I try to consider ways to integrate more personalized options into my classroom. I’m finding that personalized learning is truly personalized, and its definition and implementation can vary from classroom to classroom and district to district.
Based on my initial research, I’ve come to discover the following information about educational buzzword that is personalized learning:
What is personalized learning?
Personalized learning allows students more voice and choice in their learning environment. Some personalized learning models allow students to work at their own pace and move through coursework based on mastery. Other personalized models let students have more choice when it comes to curriculum, allowing students to tailor learning to their interests.
What are the potential benefits of personalized learning?
1. Increased motivation
Since students are choosing not only what they want to learn but also getting voice in when or how they learn it, motivation is likely to increase.
2. Increased learning
If students have to show mastery to move on, they may be more apt to learn the material, rather than jump through enough hoops to slide by.
3. Improved teacher-student relationships
As teachers learn more about their students’ interests and help foster those interests, student-teacher relationships may improve with personalized learning.
What are the potential cons of personalized learning?
1. Current student-teacher ratios
With teachers — especially at the high school level — having a hundred plus students each day, personalizing learning may be difficult. Teachers may struggle with not having enough time to truly personalize learning like they would want to, which will frustrate both teachers and students
2. Technology push back
Depending on the personalized learing model, students and parents may push back against the increased technology use. This, of course, would not apply to all personalied learning, but in many models, students are on technology more than they might be in a traditional classroom
If students are each learning their tailored content at their own pace, they may feel isolated from their peers.
Why would a school district decide to start a personalized learning initiative?
This is a difficult question to answer. Some schools may decide to personalized learning to motivate students and turn around drop out rates and low achievement scores. Personalized learning may be the best option to turn a school district around. Some districts might see how students are not responding to traditional school models, with engagement and attendance slipping. Others may not have these problems but they want to embrace the future and see personalized learning as a way to do that.
And, of course, there will always be some school districts that–sadly–want to jump on the next educational trend bandwagon, starting this initiative to look good instead of as an initiative to benefit the students and teachers. They may not do their research, and the model may be troubled from the start.
What are some ways to personalize learning for students?
Some teachers upload the entire course into a learning management system, such as Google Classroom, Canvas, or PowerSchool Learning. Students work through the course at their own pace, and the students may or may not have periodic whole-class check ins with their peers.
Teachers may also provide learning menus or choice boards, giving students different options for showing mastery of a skill. You could also let students pitch an idea or project to you, showing you how they will meet the standards and show mastery at the end of a project.
These are just a few ways you can personalize learning for your students, but they are great starting places.
Is personalized learning the way of the future for education?
This is difficult to predict. As you likely know, educational trends come and go — and personalized learning could definitely be one of those trends that fades away.
However, with the nature of our world and the voice and choice students get in their everyday lives — learning through YouTube tutorials, watching Netflix recommended shows tailored to their specific interests, going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, downloading an audiobook at the click of a button — this personalized learning trend may be here to stay.
Is personalized learning controversial?
Yes, there is in fact controversy surrounding personalized learning. Personalized learning initiatives vary from school to school, and certain personalized learning models do have opponents.
Some models of personalized learning require students to be in front of a computer for hours a day as they work through lesson modules and content. Other models of personalized learning may move students away from a traditional report card with a GPA towards a standards-based report card. This may concern students (and their parents) when seniors apply for college and compete against peers who still have a traditional GPA.
Teachers may find personalized learning controversial if they are not comfortable implementing this model. Teachers may not have received adequate training or adequate time to make these changes. They may also be concerned about the pace-based personalized learning, which could potentially move students through content too quickly without actual mastery.
Should I use personalized learning in my classroom?
Ultimately, the decision to use personalized learning in your classroom comes down to you and whether you think it will work best for your students. From my research, one “personalized” choice for students may be a traditional classroom — some students do learn best using that model, and would prefer that as a learning choice. If your district is forcing personalized learning and you prefer teaching in a more traditional manner, you could volunteer for that learning pathway.
For me, personalized learning is not yet a district mandate, and we are allowed to take risks and explore this model of learning — which I greatly appreciate — so I will try a more blended approach of traditional with personalized options.
If you have experience with personalized learning or general comments about this initiative, I would love to hear from you — comment below!