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Guidelines for School Jumpstarting Personalized Learning

By Rishi Kapal, CEO & Global Strategist, EDUGILD & Preetham Shetty, Managing Director & Co-founder, Ekin Knowledge | Thursday, 28 Sep 2017, 06:16 IST

The online Glossary of Education Reform (2015) says personalized learning refers to "a diverse variety of education programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students." It is, the Glossary says, an alternative to one-size-fits-all instruction; it is student-centered learning.

According to an article written by Michael Feldstein (When Personalized Learning Is a Logical Fallacy), ‘Personalized learning is not a product you can buy — it is a set of strategies that teachers can implement, sometimes with the help of products that are designed to support those strategies.’

The distinction between adaptive learning and personalized learning, between a tool and a teaching technique, is necessary to the basic logic that enables us to understand how the various parts of any teaching intervention work together to make a difference.

Educational products cannot be efficacious or not. What matters in learning are the educational micro-interventions - the products support in the larger context of the macro-intervention that we call “THE CLASS.”

Why personalize learning?

It is always good to start with your purpose. Why is the idea of personalization appealing for your students, your faculty, your school? What is your vision for personalization? If your school focused significantly on personalizing learning for several months, what would an observer see after that time that he or she would not see now?

What will be the match between curriculum and personalization?

When personalized learning is implemented through digital learning platforms that adapt to students' varied paces of learning in math, for example, students move through a prescribed math curriculum on varied timelines with varied supports.

In between these extremes of prescribed and individualized curriculums, formats like project-based learning, flipped learning and independent study often provide students with varying amounts of choice.

Who will experience personalization - and when?

It is also unwise to assume that any model will work for learners of all ages, in all subjects. Administrators and teachers should ponder how they know they're choosing the most appropriate audience(s) for their preferred approach to personalized learning. Is the form of personalization you are considering appropriate for all K–12 learners? Middle school? High school? Is it productive in all subjects? Most effective if used all day, or only in certain classes?

How will old and new paradigms coexist?

The way forward is likely to be smoother if teachers volunteer to implement an approach than it will if all teachers are expected to adopt it, but this leads to thorny questions. If teachers can opt in or out, is it acceptable for all 2nd grade teachers to volunteer but only half of the 3rd grade teachers? Will it work if the math department signs on but the science department does not?

What is Differentiated Instruction and how can it be used to personalize the classroom experience?

Differentiated instructions is a philosophy that acknowledges that students learn in different ways and at different paces.

Differentiation is responsive teaching where teachers proactively plan varied approaches to what different groups of learners need to learn, how they will learn it, and how they will show what they have learned.

Differentiated instructions benefit students because it promotes an environment in which learning differences are not only tolerated, they are valued, Every child comes with different talents, abilities and motivation levels, You can use DI for Remediation (Re- Teach), Intervention (Re-Enforce), Enrichment, Extensions

Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:

• Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;

• Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;

• Products – culminating projects, Assignment that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and

• Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels

What supports will teachers need?

What will teachers have to know, understand, and be able to do to feel confident and be competent in guiding successful personalization? it will be key to identify what new learning teachers need to move from regimented time blocks, prescribed pacing guides, and the like to helping students establish their own goals, craft their own objectives, and design their own assessment criteria.

• Rethink Curriculum, Instruction Style and Assessment - To ensure success, educators should consider an extended timeline for the implementation of the personalized program making sure that curriculum aligns with new standards and thinking. One important aspect of this is adaptive learning, where the material adapts to the level of the student. Additionally, imbibing new style of delivering modules and assessment will also add value.

• Provide Educators the Same Personalized Learning Opportunities - For educators to provide students with an advance learning methods, for their professional development they should use the same technology and learning methods for themselves. It is recommended that educators use online programmes and other modern educational certification courses.

• Additional IT Costs - Implementing a digital learning initiative requires good investments in new devices and tools. The same implementation can be taken care on timely basis to save costs on future buying’s/investments

• Web-based guidance system – Implementing technology tools in the classroom gives greater access to materials, helps teachers personalize classes and also provides a medium for students to be more interactive. A good web based system is equally important for classroom sessions.

• Embrace differentiated instruction - Since every student learns differently, there should be different ways of approaching projects. Involving students with different approach for their personalized learning is the key for an effective session. While teacher observation is import¬ant for guidance, it is critical that students are given options for what and how they learn.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education who performed research on personalized learning plans, there are three approaches you can take.

• Full-Size Class Approach: In this approach, the teacher instructs a full class, and gives students assignments to complete on their own. A benefit of this approach is that it involves very few changes from the traditional approach. However, it does make it more difficult for teachers to develop a personal relationship with students.

• Small Group Approach: In this approach, the teacher only teaches a small group of students (ideally less than ten). Here, students complete assignments and lessons as a small group. This approach is ideal for personalization - however, many schools do not have the staff or space to accommodate such small classes.

• Hybrid Approach: The hybrid approach is a combination of the full-size and small group approaches. Here, the teacher instructs a full-size class, but the class breaks down into smaller groups for activities. The teacher can either use peer mentors or other teachers to help mediate the groups. This approach allows larger classes to gain benefits from the small group approach without the school needing to radically alter schedules or class sizes.


February 2018
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