In the current educational reformation facing the world, personalized learning is the up and coming pedagogy for teaching. Childress and Benson described personalized learning as “student learning experiences- what they learn, and how, when, and where they learn it-are tailored to their individual needs, skills, and interests, and that their school enables them to take ownership of their learning” (2014, p. 33). Personalized learning simply means that the student’s individualized learning plan is directly in the hands of the student themselves.
Many schools have tested this theory and have seen outcomes of higher success rates in both academic learning and in students’ love of learning. This style of education includes letting the student own their education, blending techniques of teaching and resources of technology, having support from teachers, parents, and the community, and opening the curriculum to multiple alternative forms of obtaining knowledge and showing understanding.
If all schools adapted personalized learning successfully into their curriculum for each individual student, we would declare an end to the educational reformation because we would have found the solution to the educational crisis. The main factor of personalized learning is that it is student directed. Thus, the student has full control over their own education. The student, or learner, gets to pick their topic area, they can choose from multiple approaches in which to learn about the topic, and they can show their understanding to the teacher in a multitude of ways.
Students are driving their own learning with a clear view of their own goals and a path to achieve them” (Childress & Benson, p. 36) Education is moving from the responsibility of the teacher to the responsibility of the students. This brings into play a student creating a sense of ownership for their own education and learning process, the base of personalized learning boils down to the students’ ability to understand and utilize their own pace and to take ownership of their sense of knowledge (Schaffhauser, 2013).
One of the keys to creating a successful curriculum off of personalized learning is handing the control to the learners in such a manner that they feel the control, and they understand that they are the owners of their own learning. The multitude of ways that knowledge can be obtained and the content can be tested in one of the main elements that make personalized teaching so appealing. Students are able to learn in such a plethora of ways that it would be impossible to name them all.
Just some examples include lectures, PowerPoints, internet research, reading, interviews, community service, collaboration, creating something new, experiments, etc. Students learn differently and this method might be the first method of teaching that caters to every single student’s individual needs. Just as it gives students multiple ways to show their knowledge. Students are not required to take tests. Test prove that students memorized knowledge not that they understand and can used what’s been taught or what they have learned. Test limit students by asking them to memorize the facts not put what they have learned to use.
Using personalized learning, students can prove their understanding, and should prove their knowledge in three different ways (Schaffhauser, 2013). Students may choose a spelling test to show they understand phonics but they should also show they understand it in other ways, such as sounding out words they don’t know or creating a new word. Students could finally have the freedom to cater to their own needs to be successful in both obtaining knowledge and proving knowledge. Because of the freedom related to student learning and outcome, there is a larger implementation of technology.
According to research by Susan Headden an all online technology course will obtain better results than the same class taught in a lecture style but, trumping both of those methods of teaching is using a style of teaching that implements the perfect combination of both technology and teacher lecture. The teacher’s use of technology in any room can make or break the instruction. “In other words, it’s not just the technology that counts: it’s what teachers do with it” (Headden, p. 17). Giving a teacher technological tools may be useless if the teacher is unprepared to use them.
Just as not giving a teacher any technological tools can make them unable to teach using the style of personalized learning. One asset that makes personalized learning possible is the never ending support the style gets from the internet. Online resources give teachers a plethora of ways to teach and resources to help them be a thriving educator. Also, technology gives each individual learner numerous ways to both obtain knowledge and outsource knowledge. Students and teachers can log on to the internet and search any topic and find answers to their questions.
The internet provides the world with interactive magazines, zoo cameras, personal videos, animation programs, virtual posters, and so much more. Personalized learning is possible because of the modern day internet, it gives students and teachers the amount of necessary tools to create individual learning plans for every student. Not only does technology help teachers teach and learners learn but it also helps both the student and the teacher track the progress of the students’ learning. It is no longer efficient to track a student’s success in a paper gradebook.
These old school books don’t have the ability to account for progress rather they just mark if the individual has failed or succeeded. In modern day it is more important to focus on the students understanding of content. A teacher can’t score a student on a number sign when the student either understands the material or does not understand the material (Schaffhauser, 2013). Dian Schaffhauser commented on the use of the 0-100 scale, “they don’t make sense when you’re trying to really determine if a learner knows the knowledge or not, and what parts of the knowledge they know and what parts they don’t know… in performance based education” (p. 0).
It is more important for a teacher to recognize the learning capacity, and the knowledge obtained and not obtained by a student, then for a teacher to try to track a student based on a number scale of achievement. Another part of the successful use of the personalized learning method is the use of collaboration for learning. Collaborative learning is not separating the class into reading groups based on reading levels. Collaborative learning is students working together to accomplish the task in such a manner that every member of the group is equally involved and that each member’s role is necessary to complete the task.
Proper collaboration should be a part of the curriculum in every classroom because it is becoming a requisite skill by employers. Students are learning the importance of trusting and relying on members of their class to accomplish larger tasks. They are also learning that their peers can also be their teachers (Headden, 2013). In a personalized learning classroom students are encouraged to learn through multiple methods including each other. The students will become not only learners but teachers of the knowledge that have obtained as they teach to other students.
As students seem to have control over their learning they also have a control of their learning environment. Students will create their own rules, goals and essentially classrooms. When the students create their own classroom goals and rules they show that sense of ownership, feel a sense of responsibility to abide by what they said, and learn about what they need to be a successful learner (Bellavance, 2014). When students create their own goals and rules they are showing that they know how to treat each other, and that they understand that education and school are in place for learning.
Not only do students need to make the rules but they should have pride in the classroom, itself. When students make the bulletin board, arrange the desks, and help control the mess they once again have a sense of ownership and responsibility in the classroom. Giving the students the control of the classroom gives the students a chance to create a place where they feel safe, happy, and a sense of belonging in their learning. Students also need to have a sense of belonging within their own home and within the community.
Parent involvement has been found to being a major factor in the success of personalized learning. Parent involvement in this pedagogy of teaching means not just checking the child’s homework but facilitating learning in the household. Students should be able to understand that learning connects to their everyday life and exists everywhere. (Ferguson, Ralph, Meyer, Lester, Droege, Guojonsdottir, Sampson, and Williams, 2001) At home students have the chance to enhance learning, they can take their child on trips to spark interest, or turn misunderstandings or mistakes into teachable moments.
Even doing everyday activities such as cooking can turn into learning such as measuring ingredients and learning fractions. The opportunities to learn should not only take place in the classroom but should happen wherever a student goes with a mind open to learning. The connection between learning and life only begins in the home and soon travels to the community. Having a learner participate in the community can be a stimulating to a child’s learning.
Examples of ways to involve a young learner into the community are going to town meetings, participating in community cultural events, and doing community service (Bellavance, 2014). The sharing of life skills and cultures in a community are part of what creates a lifelong learner, these are the learners that will continue to learn for the purpose of being able to be a positive contributor to their family and to the community. Personalized learning could be the teaching style that recreates the entire education system. With this teaching style students have full control to the reins of their knowledge horse.
Personalized learning can meet all students where they are, motivate them based on their interest and academic level, accelerate their learning, and prepare them to become true lifelong learners” (Childress and Besnon, p. 33). They create the learning, the sharing, the classroom, their goals, and their path. Learners will finally have the opportunity to own their education. There are not many schools that have accepted this form of education, but the success stories have started to pile up and it is only a matter of time before the generational change to an educational world characterized by personal learning.