Switching to Personalized Learning


Personalized Learning: instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are tailored to the needs of each learning.

Standard-Based Learning: system of instruction assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating understanding or mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education

Luminaries: a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others

Charter Schools: a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a local or national authority

Vocational: relating to an occupation or employment

School Standards Minister: person in United Kingdom's parliament responsible for recruiting and retaining teachers and school leaders, teaching school alliances, links with College of Teaching, national funding formula for schools and schools revenue funding curriculum/assessment qualifications, school accountability, and Education for All Bill

What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning, also known as competency-based learning, is instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are tailored to the needs of each learning. As explained in the video, in most educational settings, students are expected to learn material at the same pace and at the same time, thus causing a toll to learning standards. This is known as standard-based learning, a system of instruction assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating understanding or mastery of the content and skills expected to be learned as students progress through their education. Standard-based learning has been beneficial in having a layout for what each individual student should learn, but it does not allow for students who approach learning differently. According to Sarah Garland, author of “Personalized learning and Common Core: Mortal enemies?” for the The Hechinger Report, “The purpose of personalized learning is to make custom lessons for individual students to help them master content on their own schedule. It can also encourage kids to student whatever they’re most interested in, while covering the required subjects and skills”. There is a potential in personalized learning to meet the demands of a wider population of students. Teachers are able to assess students’ strengths and needs in order to better align their teaching with each student’s learning style and interest while maintaining high standards. It allows them to determine what a student doesn’t understand so that they can better target interventions to help students get back on track. As a result, more schools, districts, states, and even the federal government are beginning to accept the idea of personalized learning, and moving towards this new educational trend.

Why the switch from standards-based learning?

There were many factors leading into the change from standard-based education to a more individualized approach to learning. One reason for the switch is due to the outdated system already into place. Educational districts were founded on the principles of standard-based learning. Education standards were set for students to meet certain requirements needed to enter the workforce, which was primarily factory-based. Linda Darling-Hamond of Stanford University believes that the focus on memorization, fueled by standardized testing, has obstructed learning. She argues that students have been losing most of the information they acquire in school. As stated in a report done by the American Institute for Research (AIR), students who attend deeper learning schools were more likely to graduate from high school on time and low-achieving students were more likely to seek postsecondary education. Additionally, students at participating schools developed comparatively better interpersonal skills. Personalized learning gives a richer and deeper meaning to education. It gives students an opportunity to move past memorizing facts and information. Through competency-based learning, they are given essential skills such as thinking and reasoning, managing behavior and emotions, and the ability to formulate and articulate their ideas. Standards-based education limits children to only learning facts out of a textbook. According to Kathleen Porter-Magee, a fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right leaning think tank, “The standards movement was intended as a way to say, hold up, if we are holding kids who are coming in more ready to learn to higher standards than kids who need extra help, then what we’re effectively doing is perpetuating the achievement gap over time.” Standards-based learning is effective for students who can keep up with the classroom curriculum, but the design hinders the academic success of students at a disadvantage. Personalized learning can be a way for children who are far behind to catch up. It allows students and teachers to make custom lessons for individual students to help them master content on their own schedule.

What are the benefits of using one-to-one devices in a personalized classroom?

Personalized learning classrooms usually take a one-to-one environment approach. One-to-one is applied to programs that provide all students in a school, district, or state with their own laptop, netbook, tablet computer, or other mobile-computing device; it also refers to one device for every student. Education has moved from ink and parchment to pen and paper; blackboard to whiteboard to smartboard; radio to television and video; and now to computers, laptops and adaptive learning technologies. As technology advances, it is being more incorporated into classrooms. There are many benefits to having one-to-one device classrooms. A study done by Binbin Zheng, assistant professor of educational technology at the University of Michigan, states, “One of the main takeaways of the research was that students who were given laptops and provided with the right support were able to raise their level of academic achievement”. Throughout the study, the researchers found that the highest improvements in subjects of English, writing, science, and math were achieved when students were equipped with the necessary tools to work at their own individual pace. Another benefit of having one-to-one devices in a personalized classroom setting is the opportunities it provides to students. Scott Monroe, executive director for IT at Leander Independent School District in Texas, says, “...computing devices offer teachers and students access to the internet and numerous online educational tools and applications. Because math, science, and language arts typically have different needs when it comes to device applications…”. Having one-to-one devices provides a handful of technology tools and applications accessible for students to use to further enhance their own education and the way they learn.

What is an example of the effects of personalized learning on an actual school?

Personalized learning allows students to be at the center of their own education. In a traditional classroom setting, there is usually an instructor telling students what they need to know out of a textbook. At Pittsfield Middle High School, located in rural New Hampshire, Jenny Wellington’s students were gathered in a circle debating Henry David Thoreau's positions on personal responsibility. The objective of the assignment was to have students research Thoreau’s philosophies and applied it to their lives or what was going on in the world around them. Sitting off to the side, observing the conversation, she noticed that the conversation was being dominated by a group of students, and occasionally she would politely suggest that someone else chime in. Otherwise, she stayed out of the way and let the discussion to take shape. This is the premises of personalized learning. Pittsfeild Middle High School, a grade 7-12 campus has implemented a personalized learning structure that places students at the center of their learning. Noah Manteau, one of the students that participated in the discussion, states “There used to be a lot more of teachers talking at you -- it didn’t matter if you were ready to move on. When the teacher was done with the topic that was it…[Personalized Learning] is so much better”. This was the campus’s third year of using this innovative approach to education. Students feel that they have more control of what they put into and get out of the classrooms. Pittsfield’s superintendent, John Freeman, is among the first to acknowledge that adopting student-centered learning was a bold move. He states, “Student performance on statewide assessments has long been uneven, and teachers and administrators know there is still significant work to be done. But test scores are just one indicator, and based on multiple other measures, including higher graduation and college-going rates, student-centered learning is moving Pittsfield in the right direction”. Freeman acknowledges that personalized learning has pushed students in a more success direction.


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