Why is having a choice of good studying strategies important in our school years? It's because..
Learning is a very personal and unique experience for everyone. The moment it becomes useful is when the learning sticks and becomes a tool that we internalise. These personalised learning moments are hard to predict, but we can do our best as teachers to set our learners up for them.
But you may ask, why does embracing this personalised approach matter to the success of our children as learners? What makes it a methodology we mustn't ignore?
In our book Future-Focused Learning, we describe personalised learning as having these characteristics:
- It's tailored to a learner's interests and abilities using clear curricular connections
- Relevant tasks are offered that shift responsibility for learning to the learner
- It's paced to accommodate diverse learning speeds and styles
- Technology can be utilised to connect to learners' interests
- It uses formative assessments with both self and peer-conducted methods
- Students have some control over what they learn and how they learn it
Consider all these things carefully. What do they all have in common? The fact that it's all learner-centred. Everything about personalised learning fosters autonomy, agency, and responsibility in our students for their education. This culminates in more independence, resiliency, and critical thinking capacity later on in life.
Opportunities for personalisation are in the curriculum, our instructional approaches, the classroom itself, and everywhere in the world. You can personalise:
- Group roles
- How a student conducts research
- How they deliver a project
- Any demonstration of learning
As educators continue to discuss how they can best prepare students to survive in the modern world, the conclusion most often reached is that personalised learning fits our learners' needs, strengths, passions, and interests. Let's take a look at a few of the other reasons why students need personalised learning experiences.
It Prepares Them for Success
Strong social and emotional skills are vital for success in college. Personalised learning develops such skills consistently, aligned to rigorous college-and-career- ready standards. Thus, it deserves a strong presence in modern classrooms.
Personalised learning is favoured over traditional learning methods because it encourages students to speak up and express their interests, giving them a voice and a choice in their educational journey, thus teaching self-advocacy skills. This is critical in preparing and ensuring success for every student in today's global knowledge-based society.
Unlike traditional learning, where students are grouped by age and apparent ability, taught and tested, and then told to move on, personalised learning allows students to master the material before moving on to the next subject. In this way, it increases the chances of each student having the knowledge, skills and mindsets they need to be successful and to lead prosperous lives.
It Can Be Customised
Personalised learning is customised in that students design their own learning pathways based on their interests and the methods that best suit their needs.
For instance, a student may partake in small groups, independent learning or one-on-one tutoring to master a particular skill or subject. Of course, this results in each student's schedule looking unique.
Everything about personalised learning fosters autonomy, agency, and responsibility in our students for their learning.
In addition, schools may use flexible learning environments to customise the learning approach, such as the physical set-up of classrooms. One example is the favoured strategy of offering flexible seating to students. With flexible seating, the classroom is focused on the student's choice and comfort of seating. The goal is to make students feel at home and comfortable by using various seating objects, such as couches, rugs, folding chairs, desks and bean bag chairs.
The Pacing is Varied
Most students will utilise a variety of approaches to their learning. However, to maximise a student's learning potential, each student's strengths and interests must be identified.
Within a personalised learning model, each student has an individual up-to-date learner profile created. It records each student's strengths, needs, goals and progress. Setting short- and long-term goals helps students take ownership of their learning experience.
Monitoring student profiles ensures that struggling students receive help sooner rather than later when falling behind. Teachers can quickly assess and identify areas where a learning method or goal needs to be modified. This approach allows students to work at their own pace and allows them to move forward or take additional time based on their level of mastery.
It Welcomes Collaboration
Teachers understand their learners need to possess specific knowledge and skills to be successful in the future. In addition, in a changing world and workforce, collaborating effectively with others is key. That's why personalised learning encourages collaboration between the school, student, parent and community.
To maximise a student's learning potential, each student's strengths and interests must be identified.
Learning doesn't always have to take place within the four walls of the classroom. Teachers can adjust their teaching methods to ensure each child is receiving instruction based on their preferred learning styles. This gives teachers a great opportunity to customise their teaching methods based on place-based learning, including through field trips, internships, and other places throughout the community. With technology, teachers can personalise instruction and expand student learning through various digital learning opportunities.
A personalised learning environment also gives parents a better and deeper understanding of their child's learning path and greater opportunity for collaboration with teachers and the community. Through frequent communication with parents, teachers can ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the student's best learning style.
It's Often Data-Driven
A personalised learning approach gives teachers detailed information, such as data and the aforementioned learner profiles. To make informed instructional decisions, teachers can use the data to measure academic performance. In addition, teachers, students, and parents all have access to valuable data that is updated on a regular basis. This ensures students and their parents have opportunities to explore and make informed learning decisions.
The data outlines what the student has learned and what they need to learn. It also provides guidance and informs all parties of what the student will be learning next. Again, this approach encourages and allows the student to take ownership of his or her learning path and provides the family with a more accurate picture of their child's learning experiences.
Planting the Seeds of Success
These are just some of the reasons why students need personalised learning, but they are among the most significant. Although learning always takes place personally, students are more engaged in the process with a personalised learning approach. It provides the flexibility needed to honour every student's uniqueness, thus better preparing them for the future.
Learning is a lot like planting seeds. It takes time to nurture and grow. Also, it will grow much better in soil that is rich and fertile. The seeds are the lessons we give our students. The soil is their brilliant and creative minds. Finally, the fertiliser for growth becomes those precious personalised learning moments.
Given enough attention through time, the mind becomes a garden in which beautiful things grow. So it is with our students.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 14, 2019, updated October 25, 2021