In a typical classroom, you’re likely to find wide variations in student engagement: a few “fast finishers” who quickly master the material, several who are struggling to keep up, and a handful in the “Goldilocks” zone who are exactly where they need to be. Some are bored, some are frustrated, and some may be sailing along but aren’t fully invested in the experience. Personalized learning can help you reach them all.
What Is Personalized Learning?
It's all about delivering a better learning journey for each student. Teachers can adapt their instructional style and materials to ensure all students learn in the way that works best for them.
If you’re teaching about cephalopods in science class, for instance, you can assign a library book to students who prefer to absorb material through independent reading, encourage visual and auditory learners to watch a video (such as My Octopus Teacher on Netflix) or listen to a recording, and engage tactile learners by providing colorful clay and having them construct a model of an octopus. (Of course, these activities can be made available to all, as many students will enjoy exploring a variety of learning methods.)
Imagine that you’re teaching students how to write a persuasive essay about whether soda machines should be allowed in school. You could share a graphic organizer highlighting the structure of a well-constructed essay, model through “thinking out loud” how you might map out your own essay-writing process, and invite student volunteers to engage in a debate while the class observes and takes notes.
While many people equate personalized learning with “individualized learning,” the latter implies that teachers can develop, deliver, and manage 30 unique programs—one for every single student in the classroom. While this might be an ideal vision, it’s hardly sustainable!
But the more that we can customize learning to meet the individual, rather than forcing students through a one-size-fits-all curriculum, the more effective learning will be.
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