Many teaching methods are a one-size-fits-all approach, but not every student will benefit from these methods. Each student is different and often requires varied ways to learn that are unique to their individual needs.
Expecting different kinds of learners to all benefit from one standard method of teaching can significantly diminish a student’s potential and the experience they have in the classroom. Personalized learning, however, has the power to vastly improve learning outcomes by enabling teachers to tailor their methods so each student can learn in a manner that is best for them and better reach their full potential.
What is Personalized Learning and Why is It Important?
Personalized learning is a process that involves finding what each student needs to help them become more proficient. This not only offers more opportunities for students to learn and increase their knowledge but it also creates opportunities for teachers to better understand their students. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with a diverse classroom full of students.
Personalized learning methods are inherently more inclusive as they take individual needs into account. In the long run, this can help increase awareness of the varied needs and abilities of students, significantly improving outcomes by fostering more inclusive environments.
Additional benefits that personalized learning offers include:
- Enabling students to take initiative in their education.
- Allowing students to learn and move at their own pace.
- Improving learning proficiencies and learning outcomes.
- Preparing students for life outside the classroom.
- Helping teachers connect more with their students.
Personalized learning gives students the ability to pursue paths that they perhaps never thought possible. It can excite and challenge them, which is inherently motivating.
7 Steps to Create Personalized Learning Plans
While personalized learning is all about the teacher finding the ways that are best suited to their students, there are steps or strategies to follow that can help.
1. SMART Goal-Setting
To start, it helps to sit down and do a bit of goal-setting to ensure the personalized learning plans are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound for optimal student development. This is called SMART goal setting. Setting goals in this way can help teachers make sure their strategy is worthwhile and will have a more desirable outcome that is beneficial to the student.
2. Use Ed Tech MIndfully
Technology plays a critical role in personalized learning. The tools that we have been given thanks to advances in technology make it easier and more convenient for teachers to create plans that are more centred around each student’s individual needs.
For example, iPads can enhance the classroom by enabling teachers to develop more interactive and engaging lessons for students who struggle with learning simply from textbooks or listening to lectures. Certain personalized learning technologies can also help spark creativity and innovation.
Technology can also be used to make learning more inclusive, such as technologies that help those with certain disabilities, like specialized keyboards and text-to-speech software. However, there are also some things to keep in mind when using tech for personalized learning.
Technology should be additive, meaning it should be used to complement or enhance but not replace teaching in the classroom. Too much technology can not only hinder learning but it can also have serious health side-effects, such as computer vision syndrome, which develops as a result of excessive screen time.
3. Include Break Time
Part of personalized learning isn’t just about the lesson plans, but about the environment as a whole. Classrooms can feel restricting for many students, so as part of creating more personalized plans, give students more freedom to take breaks and move their bodies.
These kinds of “brain breaks” actually help students remain more focused when it is time to sit down and learn. Signs that it might be time to give your students a break can include excessive fidgeting, slouching, and appearing tired or checked out.
4. Prioritize Variety
With personalized learning, offering students a range of ways to learn is best. Each student learns in a unique way. For example, if one student loves oral presentations but another doesn’t, you can offer them the option to write an essay instead.
Many students also do not do well with testing, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t learned what they need to. Consider alternatives when creating lesson plans, such as projects, experiments, educational games, oral presentations, essays, and even artwork.
5. Let Your Students Become the Teacher
Teaching is a great way to actually digest information versus simply sitting and reading about it. So instead of you always being the one standing in front of the classroom, give your students the opportunity to take over as teacher for the day.
This can improve understanding of topics for students and give them more confidence. It can also strengthen the bonds in the classroom by minimizing the gap that separates students from their teachers.
6. Consider Alternative, Flexible Seating Arrangements
Forcing students to sit in rigid arrangements, such as the standard rows of desks all facing the front of the classroom, can be boring and restrictive. To help students learn in a way that works best for them, provide alternative or flexible classroom arrangements.
Some ideas can include:
- Creating clusters of desks.
- Forming the desks into a circle.
- Creating a horseshoe pattern with desks.
- Allowing students to stand if desired.
- Providing more comforting seating areas with pillows and bean bag chairs.
Giving students more variety and flexibility with their space in the classroom can help them unlock their creativity, which can improve their ability to learn and absorb new information.
7. Reverse Work Time and Lecture Time
Some students actually learn better at home when they are on their own time and have more freedom to think in a space that potentially feels more comfortable for them. So it’s worth considering flipping lecture time and work time.
For example, instead of lecturing in the classroom, have students watch lectures and instructional or educational videos at home and then complete the assignments while they are in the classroom.
By recording lectures, teachers can spend more time editing them to enhance quality and reusing them. This also allows students to pause and rewind lectures as needed in their own time to improve learning.
Having students do their assignments in the classroom also allows them to ask questions and receive more direct feedback if they are struggling to understand anything they are working on.
There is no one right way to create personalized learning plans. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t be afraid to ask the students for their input on what would help them learn better in the classroom. In many ways, personalized learning works best when there is collaboration between the teacher and the students.