Personalized learning is a growing trend in the world of education these days, but it doesn't come without its fair share of questions and scrutiny. Today we'll debunk five of the most common misconceptions about personalized learning.
As a newcomer to the teaching profession, chances are you've heard some buzz about personalized learning, or already have your own thoughts about what it encompasses and requires. However, the truth of the matter is that there's no cut-and-dried definition or description of personalized learning; that's what makes it ''personal'' and unique to every student.
Given the amount of gray area surrounding personalized learning, it's easy to understand why there are so many misconceptions and uncertainties about it. Here we'll explore five common myths about personalized learning to help you get a better grasp of what it really means to you as a teacher.
1. It's All Fun and Games
When some people hear the term ''personalized learning,'' they automatically picture students sitting in class playing fun games on electronic devices all day. And while online games, apps and other non-traditional learning modules may be components of personalized learning, they're not what it's all about.
Personalized learning can be a blend of several different instructional methods and tools that support students' wide range of learning styles. Furthermore, it can provide students with the opportunity to explore their personal interests on a deeper level and utilize the learning methods that best suit them. This in turn boosts engagement because students take an active role in their learning instead of being forced to comply with a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
2. It's Very Time Consuming
You may be thinking that personalized learning means designing an individual lesson plan for each student in your classroom, which, in reality, would take a very long time. However, students in personalized learning environments actually assume a major responsibility for their own learning, with teachers acting as co-workers who oversee and accentuate the process. When discussing learning environments, creative learning strategist Barbara Bray states that ''learners are co-designers of the curriculum with the teachers, and teachers are co-learners with the learners.''
Transitioning to a Personalized Learning Environment
Although transitioning your classroom from a traditional to a personalized learning environment may take a while, implementing personalized learning may actually require less time than traditional prescribed curriculums. Instead of making tons of copies of the same worksheets, grading countless identical assignments and reading textbooks, you can focus on discovering innovative learning materials and methods. Additionally, you can help your students develop soft skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Creating Learner Profiles
It should be noted that an important part of personalized learning is getting to know your students on several levels. By understanding their individual interests, strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and preferences, you can create learner profiles that outline and keep track of these key characteristics.
3. It Doesn't Involve Academic Standards
Since students essentially become their own bosses in personalized learning environments, it's easy to see why some people may think that academic standards no longer apply. However, this isn't true. Just because students take an active role in their education doesn't mean that they're learning whatever they want and foregoing established academic objectives. It just means that they're meeting these objectives at different times and showcasing their learning in different ways.
Furthermore, personalized learning can actually help struggling students who often feel like they're being left in the dust. For example, if a few students need to spend more time on a math unit about fractions, that's no big deal. They can continue working on the unit until those fractions make perfect sense, rather than moving on to the next unit without properly mastering previous skills. Personalized learning can also help to eliminate the unfortunate ridicule that often comes from more advanced students.
4. It Requires Technology
Another common misconception is that technology is an absolute requirement for personalized learning. However, while technology may lead to more accessible and diversified personalized learning experiences for students, it's not always a requirement for every type of unit.
For example, an elementary science unit about the different types of rocks could involve the use of several learning mediums other than technology to help students grasp the concepts. Students might use a combination of written materials, pictures, outdoor explorations and catchy songs to understand the differences among igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. In other words, although technology may enhance students' learning of certain topics, their understanding of these topics isn't contingent upon it.
5. It Involves Individualized Work Only
While personalized learning allows students to learn in ways that best suit them, it doesn't mean that every student in your classroom will be working on something completely different each day. If this were the case, students wouldn't be communicating with their peers or working together on group activities - both of which are very important to the learning process.
Teachers in personalized learning environments should utilize curriculum maps and/or learning guides that feature several different entry points. This allows students to study the same topics, but at a pace and through mediums that work best for them. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to connect with each other and discuss what they've learned through small group interactions.
Now that you've read about some common misconceptions about personalized learning, you should have a better overall picture of what it entails (and doesn't!). Although personalized learning is just starting to take off in the educational world, there's a strong chance that it could revolutionize the way students learn.