In Pursuit of Personalized Learning



      The complex needs of our 21st century learners are driving our education systems to a new focus on personalized learning.  Articles, videos and blogs with impressive examples of personalized learning are flooding the media.  Many examples involve uses of technology that amaze and motivate us to move forward in that direction, but what can we do in the meantime?  Are there basic shifts in focus we can take to move us forward without weeks of pro-D or specialized training? The four descriptions below help to clarify PL and identify some strategies that foster this preferred way of learning. These strategies are already evident in our classrooms and with more emphasis can be used as a springboard to greater personalized learning opportunities.

1. Teaching students HOW to think instead of WHAT to think

This shift changes the focus on learning outcomes that are knowledge and content based to a focus on student thinking skills that show evidence of problem solving and critical thinking.  Allowing students to conduct inquiry-based projects is a step in the right direction.   When students are required to follow up with reflections on why and how they learned, the process of teaching students how to think expands.

2. Opening the door to Choices

The role of the teacher is shifting from ‘Controller’ to Coordinator.  Giving students options in their assignments and then guiding them through the process allows them to chose formats that interest them. Even if the criteria for an assignment remain the same, allowing for variation in methods of delivery (i.e. poster, power-point, video, etc.) allows for individual skills to develop and unique strengths to shine.

3.  Creating collaborative cultures

Personalized learning does not mean individualized learning.  According to B.C. Education Minister George Abbott, “the school curriculum will continue to focus on basic core skills, but it will now emphasize critical thinking, insight and teamwork.”  This is more more fully explained in the B.C. Education Plan. Teaching and modeling effective group and teamwork skills with plenty of practice time is the only way to achieve this goal.

4. Showcasing the Learning Process

Teachers that have adopted the use of learning portfolios (collections of work that show what students have done,) have discovered a great tool for personalized learning.  Even if the format of the portfolio is very basic, the student can see and demonstrate how work has progressed and can better identify learning gaps and develop plans for future learning.

UPDATE:  I  just became aware of the four “C”s for 21st Century learning.  This diagram really helps to clarify the skills we need to emphasize with our  students, our teaching, and our administrative leadership.

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About kbarnstable

Education Consultant
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