Personalized learning is something that many teachers strive for, but it can be easier to want it than make it happen.
Personalization is best created at the learning model and curriculum level rather shoe-horned in after the curriculum is done, but when you’re given lemons you play the hand you’re dealt when in Rome, because birds of a feather may not come back unless you set them free.
1. Choice Boards
A choice board is a brilliantly simple tool that can provide scaffolding, tiering, use of Bloom’s taxonomy, support multiple learning styles, and more. You essentially take the idea behind an assignment–or better yet, a learning standard itself–and create four choices that, if completed, will address a given learning standard.
In fact, these can be done on the fly. Write a topic or standard on the board in the center of four squares, and in each square create an activity students can perform to demonstrate understanding of that topic or standard. Or better yet, let them come up with ways of their own.
2. Project-Based Learning
By its very nature, Project-Based Learning requires a significant role for the student. They take on authentic roles by documenting, capturing, reflecting, imagining, managing, and communicating. They actively choose topics and media, audiences and challenges, research sources and project timelines.
3. Tiered Learning Targets
This isn’t exactly the high point of progressive learning, but can be useful in a tightly-monitored, high-pressure public school classroom. In extracting learning targets from academic standards, teachers create single statement of performance (often in “I can…” form). The problem is that this statement will rarely be the “just for me” strand all learners need (unless, by chance, every student happens to understand a topic at the same level, which is unlikely).
So instead of one statement–I can explain the relationship between diction and tone–it can be broken up into three standards:
I can define diction and tone. (low)
I can explain the relationship between diction and tone. (middle)
I can explain how diction and tone converge to imply an author’s position on a topic. (high)
This helps in terms of assessment–identifying where learners are stuck–and offers an oar to students drowning in the rigor. The “low” target provides an accessible starting point where they can feel honored. “Hey, that’s about where I am” rather than “I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
4. Write. (A lot.)
Writing as assessment.
Writing to learn.
Writing to demonstrate learning.
Formal writing. Informal writing.
Starting at various stages of the writing process.
Revisiting old writing.
Writing to support meta-cognition.
Writing about reading.
Writing about the writing itself.
Writing helps personalize learning, is highly flexible, and imposes a cognitive load on learners that is hard to match.
5. Mobile Devices
By placing an Android smartphone, iPad, or notebook computer in the lap of a student, they immediately have direct access to media tools and information. This doesn’t mean learning is suddenly personalized by using a mobile device, but the tool is there. Rather than listening, they are accessing, a great starting point for personalized learning.