4 Steps Towards A More Personal Classroom

4 Ways To Get Started With Personalized Learning

contributed by Linda Pruett

Personalized learning is a key to transforming education.

What is personalized learning? In part, it’s about meeting the kids where they are and then helping them grow.

And part of that is finding out where each student’s interests lie, challenging them to grow in their individual interests, and then celebrating their growth! It is student-centered, student-driven, and student-celebrated.

So how do we put personalized learning into practice? This is the big question, and one difficult to fully grasp. Technology plays a key role in personalized learning. Using data from formative assessments, from student interest profiles, and from just taking time to get to know each student, teachers will be challenged to find a way to personalize learning for each individual student in the classroom.  

Public education will have to change for personalized learning to really take hold. Old, antiquated systems like the traditional school year, the Carnegie unit, attendance dollars generating income for schools and the like must be reconsidered to do what is best for students. There are many forces holding public education back in this arena.  

However, some districts are on the cutting edge, trying to attack this issue. Some are providing many opportunities for online learning that can stretch the school day 24/7 and 365 days a year. Some are beginning to find a way to share personnel in remote areas where certificated specialists are hard to find using online resources. This is all good, but it is a tiny drop in a very large bucket at this point.  

4 Ways To Get Started With Personalized Learning

1. Really, truly get to know your students

Personalized learning requires we know our students very well. To do this we have to take many data sources, including interest profile data.

We can also ask questions of each student to gain a better understanding. But this is just the beginning. Start with conferencing and building connections with your students. Do you know where they live? What they love? What they’re afraid of? What work their family does? What they believe about themselves? 

Without knowing this kind of information, how can you ever be anything other than diagnostic?

See also Why Did They Fail? A Diagnostic Process To Troubleshoot Understanding

2. Use interests & grouping

Next, pull together kids with similar needs, strengths, and interests. If you have a group of kids who love dance, encourage them to develop a dance to explain the scientific method in science! Have others make a video, or even write down the steps. Adjust reading and writing activities, use of digital media, the function of technology, and more in terms of both student affinity and the results you see as a teacher.

Scoring guides play a key role in ensuring the necessary standards have been met when students do varied activities to show their understanding.

3. Help them to set their own goals

Help your students to analyze the data about themselves and set their own personal learning goals. Use this in a writing or math journal and start your conferences by examining the data. Hattie (i.,e., Visible Learning) says students developing their own expectations about learning has the greatest effect size for academic growth.

See also 6 Questions About Hattie’s Research About Teaching Strategies

4. Use technology to empower students

Developing a classroom website and a wiki where online collaboration and discussion can occur enhances learning for the individual student.

Same with twitter, pinterest, YouTube, and more. The more students work together–hopefully toward common goals–the more personal the classroom will feel to them because they’ll be known not just in terms of their name, face, and personality traits, but their learning as well. Platforms like IXL, Khan Academy, dosomething.org, and hundreds more can help empower students.

Using a variety of instructional tools to tailor learning for kids makes it even more personal if it’s done with thought. Technology is also a great tool to help organize the student data–another (potential) factor in a personal classroom!

4 Steps Towards A More Personal Classroom; image attribution flickr user johnmorgan; 4 Ways To Get Started With Personalized Learning