Working with several education clients including K-12 and Higher Ed institutions, foundations and advocacy organizations, we pay close attention to issues and trends affecting schools and districts across the country. One movement known as personalized learning has been generating much attention recently. Although the concept itself has been around for years, more and more educators are moving away from traditional curriculums and adopting visions for personalized lesson plans to help students maximize their potential and achieve success after high school.
Personalized learning refers to tailoring educational instruction to the individual learner, meeting students where they are and supporting progress based on demonstrated mastery of subjects. With this type of instruction, teacher support and person-to-person interaction are essential for guiding learners. As a result, this approach can involve everything from creating 1:1 device programs to encourage learning outside the classroom to fostering personal connections with students to better understand their learning needs.
Since personalized learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there are varying interpretations of how different schools, districts and organizations that partner with them might define the term as they develop curriculums that work best for their communities. This can sometimes lead to challenges or confusion for schools just starting to develop and implement these approaches in their own classrooms. So, it is important for educators and the advocacy organizations that work with them to clearly articulate how they are using personalized approaches to create an open dialogue and opportunities for feedback with parents, students and colleagues as they work to transform education together.
Personalized learning programs are the result of collaboration and communication at every level of the school district – for teachers, administrators, students, parents and community leaders. When implemented correctly, this can make an enormous difference. Many schools with these programs have witnessed improvement from their students. Math and reading skills have grown through the increased use of technology – such as DreamBox that improves math and the literacy app Newsela – both of which have helped students to master material outside the classroom.
Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut is a compelling example of how personalized learning can help students achieve success. School leaders there have reimagined their approach to education by implementing online courses and content, redesigning learning spaces to promote collaboration and helping students plan their own independent studies. This model allows students to learn at their own pace and in ways that work best for them.
As the term “personalized learning” may be used far and wide in education, a clear and consistent message on how schools and organizations are implementing this innovative work can help in their missions to best prepare young people for promising futures.