Personalized learning methods empower students to approach their learning in ways that best suit them. With this teaching practice, learning is designed with every student’s needs in mind to help them engage in educational experiences. Personalized learning accounts for students’ unique learning paths and ensures that students can learn at their own speed. It also offers students the opportunity to be more participatory in their learning, ensuring that they feel more motivated to engage.
Personalization can manifest in classrooms in several ways. In a physical classroom, students might have flexible seating and desk options that make it easier for them to do art projects or read. From an instructional point of view, personalization can be implemented in areas such as student pacing, learning choice and individualized content. Allowing students to approach their learning from a place of interest, comfort and ability can lead to a thoughtful and fulfilling educational journey.
Benefits of Personalized Learning in K-12 Classrooms
The benefits of personalized learning can be realized throughout a student’s learning, from young learners in kindergarten to 12th graders. It makes sure that students can take a proactive role in their own learning, completing assignments creatively on subjects in which they’re interested. Students also feel more motivated and supported when they’re allowed to pursue their own interests.
Personalized learning also comes with benefits for teachers. According to some definitions, technology is the linchpin of personalized learning, making it easier for teachers to cater to their students’ needs and create individualized learning paths. When implemented with a learning management system (LMS), students—and their parents—can access content whenever they need it. This ensures that students who are learning at a more rapid pace can continue to improve their understanding when they’re ready.
How Do Teachers Personalize Learning for Their Students?
Teachers can utilize personalized learning strategies in a variety of ways, many of which are enabled by EdTech tools like an LMS.
Teachers can enable students to personalize their own learning through pace. Students learn and understand at different speeds. By empowering students to learn as fast or slow as they need, teachers can ensure that their whole class has the same level of understanding before they advance.
There are several ways that teachers can implement personalized pace in the K-12 classroom. We’ve provided two examples below.
- Timely feedback: Giving students autonomy over their learning relies on high-quality, timely feedback. Students who are working ahead need to know that they’re on the right track to ensure they don’t gain the wrong understanding of class material. This empowers students to bridge any smaller gaps in their understanding on their own or with teacher assistance, keeping them engaged in future learning.
- Pacing guidelines: To ensure that students don’t drift too far apart in their learning, teachers need to set up appropriate pacing guidelines. These can come in the form of weekly targets, announcements and formative assessments. Having a baseline that’s attainable to all students means that teachers can ensure students are progressing in a way that meets their needs while maintaining structure and adhering to course standards.
Giving students the ability to learn at their own pace—whether that’s faster or slower than anticipated—ensures that they can thoroughly grasp concepts before they’re asked to move on.
No two people have exactly the same interests. Students are bound to enjoy and be motivated by different things. Personalizing the content with which they engage is an important part of ensuring student engagement, which can lead to intrinsic joy in learning.
To personalize content, K-12 teachers can focus on a couple of key areas.
- Understanding learners’ needs: Some students prefer to read class materials, while others may understand concepts better through video or audio lessons. Understanding students’ needs helps teachers deliver content that suits their classes. If a student is struggling with a particular math problem, their teacher could go over supplementary material with them so they can understand before the class moves on. Teachers can achieve individualized understanding by taking the time to speak to students one-on-one, conducting surveys and fostering environments where students feel comfortable discussing their problems.
- Providing diverse perspectives in class material: To reach and engage each student, it’s important to meet students where they’re at, to acknowledge their differences and understand that they may relate to things in a variety of ways. The content offered should span a range of perspectives at least as diverse as the people in the classroom. No two learners have identical backgrounds, histories or futures—by letting students seek out the content that most interests them, educators can better engage students and bridge learning gaps.
Providing an array of content options for students ensures that students can learn by pursuing their own interests. This can foster an environment where students are passionate about and engaged in their learning.
What is more personal than the flexibility to choose? Personalization can also be embodied by students who have the autonomy to pursue their learning in ways that interest and engage them. Teachers can equip their K-12 students with choice using a variety of tactics.
- Flexible learning environments: Learning environments can literally be flexible if they include modular furniture and multi-purpose spaces. And flexibility can also be achieved in a blended learning environment, where students can choose how they learn best. For some students, being able to access course content from home asynchronously can play a big part in their learning. As long as students have a roadmap that outlines how far along they should be and by when, they can take charge of their learning from an early age.
- Varied assessments: Giving students a choice of different assessment types allows them to show their understanding in a way that’s most comfortable for them. This also allows students who are learning more quickly to challenge themselves by exploring assignment types that they’re less comfortable with.
Offering a variety of choices can level the playing field for students who learn in untraditional ways. Using flexible learning environments and varied assessments ensures that learning is equitable for all students.