Why Personalized Learning is Important

May 29, 2020 by

woman using MacBook

Teaching styles are always evolving, as schools look for better ways to engage with students. With technology playing a more important than ever, the opportunity to personalize learning is more accessible for teachers everywhere. Personalized learning is all about customizing material for the individual student to increase the possibility of success. This mode of learning is important because it helps engage students in new material, retain more information and overall see more success in their schoolwork.

Personalized learning is changing the way classrooms work. Instead of a teacher enrolling a group of students in the same lesson plan, personalized learning accompanies for greater student choice. Allowing for different paces, progress reports and designated learning environments may help more students achieve success, while also providing the data to back it up.

What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning is an educational method designed to accompany the individual needs, interests and skills of each student. This mode of teaching allows teachers to utilize technology to personalize their curriculum, making teaching more flexible and data-driven. 

Engaging students in personalized learning emphasizes the role of relationships, personal competencies and engagement in how a student retains new information. Competency-based learning focuses on the cognitive, motivational and social aspects of an individual. Often the motivational factor for students can be just as important as their learning style. Understanding not only how students learn but why they learn, plays an important role in personalized learning. 

While personalized learning is often considered a tech-driven mode of teaching, the method actually accompanies much more than that. There tend to be four widely used models in personalized learning, which guide educators inside and outside of the classroom. These four models include learner profiles, personalized learning pathways, competency-based progressions and flexible learning environments. These methods can support each other and be used interchangeably. Learner profiles are based on how an individual learns best, while learner pathways deal more with the pace and progress of the individual, measuring their success along the way.

The Benefits of Choice

There are many benefits of personalized learning. Many educators feel that personalized learning leads to great success, especially for students who are prone to falling behind or surging ahead. Allowing them to make progress on their own time schedule reduces the number of students who are bored by lessons that they already understand, while also reducing the number of students who feel left behind as the rest of the class moves ahead.

Traditionally, teachers were the sole decision-makers in the classroom. Students may have some ability to make choices, like which partner to work within a group project, but as far as the content of their learning, students were reliant on the scheduled lesson plan. Personalized learning allows students more control and choice. They have control over how quickly they make progress through new material, and what material they choose to learn next.

A survey by the Center for Digital Education found that personalized learning is the number one educational technology priority across the country. But the technological aspect of personalized learning is not its only benefit. There is also support that the holistic approach of personalized learning creates a more equitable relationship between the teacher and student. This can help boost a student’s self-confidence and personal work ethic, while also helping the teacher engage with students in a more meaningful way.  

Engaging Students More Effectively

The conversation around personalized learning is not wholly positive. Criticism over the influence of tech companies in the educational sphere is the main complaint. However, many schools are finding ways to institute personalized learning in a way that uses data analytics to measure student’s progress without this necessarily resulting in extra reliance on fancy apps or software.

Another criticism of personalized learning is the screen time. If children today are spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of a device, why advocate for more? A 2018 Education Week Research Center found that many principals across the U.S worry that personalized learning requires too much screen time. While there is certainly validity in this concern, personalized learning as a concept can be implemented in a variety of ways, and does not have to lead to excessive screen time. 

Understanding the pros and cons of personalized learning helps educators decide whether this educational method will work in their classroom. The benefits of personalized learning are numerous, and the success of students who are able to progress on their own schedule is paramount. It is clear that inside and outside of classroom personalized learning can lead to more targeted instruction, more motivated students, and a better use of time management all across the board. Personalized learning will continue to play an important role in how education works for the individual student, and the transformation taking place due to the use of technology in schools.

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