Learning is a deeply personal journey and tailoring it to individual needs and preferences is essential for fostering meaningful and effective education. Personalized learning increases engagement and helps learners develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter. It all begins with understanding the learner's interests, something I dive deeply into in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms. What are they passionate about? What do they want to learn more about? Once you know the learner's interests, you can tailor the learning experience to them.
Below are five things to consider, which can help make learning personal and empower students to take ownership of their education.
To make learning personal, educators should establish clear learning targets that are both challenging and achievable for students. These should align with the standard(s) being addressed and the student’s current knowledge and skills, ensuring they feel the appropriate cognitive flexibility without becoming overwhelmed. Clarity provides a sense of purpose, direction, and motivation, allowing students to measure their progress and take pride in their accomplishments. When facilitating Tier 1 instruction, look to impart relevance during the opening minutes through a well-designed anticipatory set. At the conclusion, have the students reflect on how they will use what they learned outside the classroom as part of a closure task.
Determine Individual Needs
Data is the best tool educators can use to determine what a learner needs to succeed. There are so many sources to pull from, such as common formative assessments, routine benchmarks, and adaptive tools. You can even leverage data from exit tickets. By identifying both areas for growth and strengths, educators can begin to map out specific personalized pedagogical pathways that focus on customized supports. They can also adapt their teaching methods and materials to cater to the diverse needs of their students.
Emphasize choice and autonomy
Empowering students with choice and autonomy is a fundamental aspect of personalized learning. When students have the freedom to choose topics, tasks, projects, or how to demonstrate understanding, they become more invested in their learning. Educators can provide a range of options within the curriculum, allowing students to pursue their passions and explore their strengths while meeting educational objectives through choice activities, playlists, specific digital tools, dry-erase surfaces, and must-do/may-do options. This fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility for their learning.
Provide Continuous Feedback and Support
Learning that is personal ensures continuous feedback and support to students. Constructive feedback helps learners understand their strengths and areas for improvement, allowing them to adjust their strategies and take initiative in their learning journey. It should be timely, specific, and practical, where educators maintain open lines of communication, offering guidance and resources tailored to each student's needs. Also, fostering a growth mindset, where students understand that learning involves setbacks and challenges, can help them persevere and succeed.
Adapt and Evolve
Making learning personal is an ongoing process that requires adaptability, evolution, and growth. As students grow and change, so should their educational experiences. Educators should be willing to adapt their teaching methods and materials based on feedback and assessment results while connecting relevant trends and issues. Technology can also play a significant role in creating a personal touch, offering adaptive learning platforms and tools that cater to individual progress and needs.
The best classroom management strategy is sound pedagogy. Making learning personal can help establish attentive behavior while creating an environment where students want to work. Here are some practical tips that can be leveraged during every lesson:
- Integrate a hook at the beginning of class.
- Use technology to create interactive and engaging learning experiences.
- Connect learning to the learner's real-world experiences.
- Encourage learners to reflect on their learning and set goals for themselves.
- Celebrate the learner's successes.
Personalized learning is a powerful approach to education that recognizes the uniqueness of each student. Educators can create an environment where students are actively engaged and take ownership of their learning by assessing learning preferences, establishing clarity, offering choice and autonomy, providing continuous feedback and support, and adapting to changing needs. Ultimately, personalized learning enhances academic achievement and fosters a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom.