Schools today are moving towards a personalized learning experience for every child. The move is away from standardization and it is empowered by technology. Our trajectory includes authentic learning shaped by student choice and fueled by student interest.

We are amidst a sea of change.

In Grade 2, with Mrs. Carnine, I sat in a row of desks in an Alberta public school and compliantly completed my Curriculum Press workbook. About 15 years later, I entered my first Grade 1 classroom as a teacher and passed out the modern version of that same workbook in a private school in midwest America. While much had changed in my mind about educating children, and even though I was in a very different place, I was still trapped in a pedagogy of the past.

And while our hearts are so willing, seeing the benefits and blessings for children, we are unsure of how personalized learning looks in the classroom. How many of us are still passing out those workbooks, worksheets, and duo-tang photocopies to students?

My professional inquiry this year, revolves around “What does personalized learning look like in the classroom?” because our classrooms are filled with students! How can it possibly be unique for each one?

Personalized Learning in the Classroom

At our school, the evidence of personalization is all around me!  Here are some nuggets from this past week:

  • Individualized written goal-setting with 7-year olds.
  • Digital ePortfolios with the personal work of each student.
  • Self-assessments of a writing assignment.
  • Teachers who are studying deeply and inquiring around the unique needs of students in their classrooms this year.
  • Technology-driven lessons offering students the opportunity to learn at their own pace and advancing through concepts sequentially and individually.
  • Flexible seating and opportunities to learn in welcoming and comfortable environments.
  • Commitment to flexible learning groups with targeted instruction across grade-levels.
  • Teachers who are personally co-regulating with children who are dysregulated emotionally.
  • Educators who are practicing the mantra, “I don’t need him to be different; he is enough just the way he is.”

In just a few short visits to classrooms, it is easy to see how much has changed and how students’ needs are being met uniquely.

Here are some concrete tenets of personalized learning:

  1. Varied Strategies
  2. Just-in-time Direct Instruction
  3. Choice and Voice
  4. Mastery-Based Assessment
  5. Choice for Demonstrating Learning
  6. Flexible Pacing
  7. Co-Plan Learning

While we don’t have time to dissect all of these strategies today, I hope you’ll consider your child’s classroom or your classroom. What is a strength of your program? What could improve?

Parents, it is important to note here, trying to personalize learning is exhausting work for teachers. We are clearly outnumbered and we aren’t always sure how to operationalize individualized learning experiences. We could use your help!

Photo by Cengizhan Konuş on Unsplash

A Student’s Role in Learning

Students have a unique role in our changing educational system. Learning doesn’t allow children to sit robotically completing deadening worksheets in quiet rows with dull hearts. We need children to practice the engagement, curiosity, and reflection of a learner. Often it looks like play. Children with hearts oriented towards learning will thrive.

There is a powerful way all of us can empower personalize learning in the nests of our homes and classrooms! One simple question children can reflectively answer over and over,

What is next in your learning?

One simple reflective question with profound answers. Modify the question for any topic. Start with the easy ones, like “What’s next in your learning in Tae-Kwon-Do? Soccer? Reading?” Invite this response often. When you do an academic task reflect with your child, “What is next?”

Our question inherently values learning. It invites consideration of “Where am I in my learning and what will I try next? How will I improve?”

The student sits in the driver’s seat.

In this one little question, we shift the power and direction for learning. We personalize it.

No matter what they say, honour their response. Ultimately, personalizing learning is all about relationship and dignifying another’s journey.

What happens when students own their own learning? Check out this great infographic from @MindShift.

For the sake of the children,

Karine

P.S. This month, the Learn Forward gift is our original family meetings template. Our question, “What’s next in your learning?” is a wonderful question to embed in a family meeting?