When is personalized learning not actually personalized learning?

November 8, 2018

Personalized Learning is a hot new brand in education, the Great New Thing that is going to revitalize education and elevate students to new levels of awesome. And yet, what is being pitched in many school districts is not personalized learning at all.

When we hear the words “personalized learning,” we imagine an educational plan crafted to the individual student. Pat really loves dinosaurs, so the teacher creates a reading unit based on books about dinosaurs combined with a writing unit involving research about dinosaurs. If Pat is weak on particular styles of charts and graphs, Pat may get an extra unit that works on organizing information about dinosaurs visually. Meanwhile, Chris needs remedial work on reading, so Chris gets some lower-reading level high-interest materials about rodeos and horses, because that’s what Chris loves. On the other side of the hall, Sam wants to be a concert pianist, so Sam’s educational program approaches history from the perspective of the history of music, and Sam actually spends less time daily on science so that there’s more time for music-related studies.

That, or something like it, would be personalized learning.