To Personalize or Not To Personalize
Every educator knows that students come to school comprised of different backgrounds, academic abilities, and talents. Yet, teachers continue to instruct in whole class methods that are a “one-size-fits-all” style of teaching. Maybe it stems from how universities continue to instruct our teacher’s using the same instructional methods that they have used for hundreds of years. Or maybe it’s because getting teachers to change how they instruct their students will be a tall order. Still maybe it’s because parents refuse to speak up to teachers about the specific needs of their child because they don’t want to be “that” parent. Regardless of the reason, personalized learning will never take hold in any education system until a culture of belief has been cultivated among all education stakeholders.
Building a Culture Among School Staff
At the heart of personalization is differentiated learning, however the word “differentiation” can leave a sour taste in a teacher’s math. Teachers have been overwhelmed in the past when trying to differentiate learning for students because without the proper technology it isn’t feasible. Now that we have better computer adaptive programs and technology that has the ability to analyze data instantly, teachers are better prepared to provide the personalized learning to each student craves and that they deserve. If you want to get teachers onboard with personalized learning, provide them digital tools that will make the arduous job easier. Secondly, if you want to make a teacher’s blood boil, just mention the word “faculty meeting.” The reason they hate faculty meetings is because it is the opposite of personalized learning. More often than not the principal is going over some policy or training that many of the teachers have had before. School leaders can build a culture of personalized learning by allowing teachers to choose the professional development they participate in during the school year. Faculty meetings are no longer met with drudgery, but they are an opportunity for teachers to be treated like professionals by respecting their time and only having them participate in professional development that they need. Do these few things, and your school staff will start to get behind personalizing learning for students.
Building a Culture Among Parents
As a school administrator, a common concern that I hear from parents is that their individual child’s needs are not being met. Yet parents are hesitant to have private conversations with teachers because they feel that personalization for their child isn’t feasible with the current enrollment of students for each classroom. Once the school administrator talks about how utilizing technology and changing teaching practices can try to address their child’s needs, then parents will be more accepting of the changes that must occur as school’s pursue a personalized learning environment. In stead of waiting for these conversations to naturally occur with parents, school leaders should organize a community event where a vision for a personalized learning can be shared. Videos about personalized learning can also be shared via social media with the community. As soon as parents catch the vision, your personalized learning movement will definitely pick up steam.
Building A Culture Among Students
Part of a child’s stereotypical dislike for school stems from being forced to relearn about concepts that they already know. A huge selling point to students personalized learning is giving them more freedom and choice over their education. What student wouldn’t want more control over their learning? As soon as students are able to begin directing their own learning, they will be your biggest fans of personalized learning. One way to really drive home your school’s commitment to personalized learning is to commit to classrooms with flexible seating. School leaders begin to tailor classroom environments (including furniture) around the needs and desires of the students. This outward demonstration of support for personalized learning will show students that the needs of an individual matter. The second thing that school leaders can do get students on board with personalized learning is to ensure that every child participates in a genius hour projects or passion projects. These projects center around allowing students the opportunity to learn about things that they actually want to learn about. Students without a doubt, will then be all about personalized learning.
Building a Culture Takes Time
Like anything worthwhile, developing a culture supportive of personalized learning can take time — like somewhere between 3 to 5 years. The most important thing that you can preach to all three stakeholder groups( parents, students, and school staff) is that building a personalized learning culture at your school will take time. Teachers will need to learn new strategies and they will need to adapt and refocus their instructional patterns. Students will need to get used to working more independently and having the teacher guide their instruction instead of “spoonfeed” students information. Lastly, parents will need to get used to their students being so excited to go to school! A culture of personalized learning will definitely take some time to develop, but it will be worth the wait.