A quick introduction to personalized learning

This FETC session preview looks at an education model that supports all learners
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Ana Hale and Summaya Knight are instructional technology specialists with Kennesaw State University iTeach. They will be featured speakers at FETC 2020.

If you have been in education for a while you’ve likely seen a half-dozen educational initiatives come and go, not least of which is “personalized learning.” Education leaders have many questions about it. Is it yet another educational initiative? How can personalized learning help my school? Will this educational model continue to exist at the end of the year? Take some time to consider all the intricate facets of personalized learning and how it can effectively support your school community.

Ask why

It’s important to have a “why” when considering personalized learning.

  • Why is this important to your school culture and community?
  • How can personalized learning benefit students?
  • In the long run, will students benefit from a change in how they learn?
  • How will this model change the overall pedagogy of teachers?
  • How will this model change the conduciveness for learning for all students?

In the long run, it’s important to understand the reason for the change and how it will impact both students and educators.

If you haven’t already, check out the Personalized Learning white paper by Anissa Lokey-Vega and Stephanee Stephens. It explains personalized learning and breaks down the essential conditions for a personalized learning environment.

The whitepaper gives some background and reference to some challenges that educators are facing with the paradigm shift. Also important to note, as the authors do, the white paper is subject to iteration as research and experiences inform pedagogy and the vision of personalized learning becomes refined.

Personalized learning has some core tenets that set it apart from the traditional educational model.
The backbone of personalized learning is “Prioritized Executive Functioning” (PEF). PEF is the self-regulatory skills and cognitive processes all learners need to develop learner agency.

Skills involved in this process include soft skills and social-emotional skills as well as learning metacognitive strategies. Think of PEF skills as the foundation for personalized learning. PEF is not an “initiative,” it’s the necessary skill critical to today’s learning and college and career readiness.

Co-planning between learners and educators, as well as an emphasis on student voice, are hallmarks of personalized learning. Learners’ differences are valued with the end goal of supporting all learners through their individual strengths and interests. In addition, other factors such as individual path, flexible content, and authentic and adaptive assessments are utilized to create a unique and meaningful personalized learning experience.

Data and assessment

Additionally, integral to personalized learning is the use of technology as a way to collect data through authentic and adaptive assessment, communicate content to learners, and provide resources for learners’ voices.

Technology will greatly benefit personalized learning; however, the focus is on pedagogy. While Montessori schools have been personalizing learning for decades without tech, most teachers will benefit from technology to collect and analyze data and provide direct instruction even when a teacher is not available. Technology allows educators to work smarter not harder.

The paradigm of education is slowly changing; educators, policymakers, and higher education institutions understand that the traditional learning model of everyone being on the same page at the same time is antiquated. The use of technology to support learners and provide teachers with easy access to learners’ individual data gets better every year.

For these reasons, the concept of personalized learning will not go by the wayside, even though the term itself will likely go through some transformations. But don’t be fooled. While the name may change, the concept will not. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?

Ana Hale and Summaya Knight are instructional technology specialists with Kennesaw State University iTeach. They will be featured speakers at DA’s FETC 2020.