It happens every time the bell rings: some students leave bored to tears while others depart so confused they don't know how to make heads or tails of what they've just"learned."
Though we've long known that students have vastly different learning styles, instruction isn't typically tailored to accommodate the large variety that exists in most classrooms. That is, except in those that utilize adaptive, personalized learning technology.
In addition to addressing inequities that lead to achievement gaps and increasing engagement, here's how personalized learning makes a huge impact in preparing students for college and career.
What is personalized learning and why is it important?
You won't find a universal definition of personalized learning. Different experts have their own takes, nearly all of which involve some form of student choice and customized instruction.
In the absence of a single meaning, Digital Promise Global offers this helpful overview:
"Personalized learning, learning that is connected to each individual's development, background, interests, and experiences, provides an approach that broadly and equitably supports educators' efforts to empower learners as individuals. Personalized learning offers a path to effectively support the growing diversity of the population of students by understanding how individual learners learn best and actively engage, motivate and inspire them with the right resources at the right time, in the right medium, and at the right pace."
As the learning day evolves alongside many hybrid classrooms and flipped instruction models, personalized learning will not only increase in importance, but edtech may even make it easier for educators to deliver more tailored instruction in an equitable way.
Feedback is a key element for all student progress, especially those with learning differences. Since the risk of falling behind is always present, individualized feedback from an instructor is the most reliable way to help them stay on track.
But what about the remainder of the class? If instructors are saving their time and energy to keep a select few from falling behind, how do they ensure it doesn't derail the rest of the students?
In these situations, educators often rely on online content or digital programs to help personalize the learning day. These lessons ensure students receive immediate feedback about what they've learned, as well as the concepts they have yet to master. That might include a custom-curated quiz based on how far they've advanced through a particular lesson or reading suggestions to supplement areas they aren't performing well.
No formal education would be complete without exposure to collaboration. This single skill has both immediate and long-term benefits that are essential for students as they learn and prepare for their future careers.
For starters, prioritizing collaboration in the classroom gives instructors the opportunity to use their limited time strategically. As educational websites like Prodigy point out,"Since many personalized learning programs include solo or collaborative activities, teachers are free to address smaller groups of students for more targeted teaching."
However the real long game goes far beyond the school day. According to the World Economic Forum, collaboration will be key to creating the workforce of the future and is"urgently needed."
Preparing students for the future
When learning is personalized, students gain skills that directly translate to their futures: future careers, future families and future communities.
It starts when students are given the opportunity to dictate their own learning. In doing so, they more readily develop the essential skills needed to make progress in a world that's quickly changing.
For instance, goal-setting exercises better ensure students see the value in remaining accountable. Accomplishing the goals they set also increases confidence in their own abilities. And whereas self-assessments encourage self-reflection, having the agency to choose what, where and how they learn based on their interests leads to greater self-advocacy.
Devices can never take the place of great teaching, merely amplify it. Still, they are rather helpful in personalizing the academic experience of students across a variety of abilities and learning styles.