January 25, 2018 | By Barbara Pape
“We cannot teach students well if we do not know them well. At its heart, personalized learning requires profound shifts in our thinking about education and schooling.”1
Personalized learning is not a new concept. Great teachers have always sought ways to support each student and the above quote from 1999 by Theodore Sizer, former University Professor Emeritus at Brown University and Chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools, holds true today.
What has changed, however, is the need and increased capacity to personalize learning, including:
At Digital Promise Global, the Learner Variability Project (LVP) initiative seeks to build on emerging research on learner variability and uncover strategies to meet learners where they are across varied contexts and needs.
The fourth installment in our Making Learning Personal for All series, “Policies and Practices that Meet Learners Where They Are,” highlights the promise of personalized learning to meet the needs of the full diversity of learners. It also examines policy actions and investments that district, state, and federal and national levels can take to help each learner master content and a broad range of skills. It makes clear that personalization must consider the whole child, put learner voice and choice front and center, and be built on the learning sciences.
As district, state, and federal/national educators and policymakers seek to redefine the profile of a graduate for the 21st century, many are taking on the task of creating enabling conditions to take personalization to classrooms. Despite a tangle of rules and regulations, district-level policies support a school environment that elevates learner voice and choice through personalization. From personal learning plans and competency-based learning to weaving in social and emotional development with academic learning, districts and schools can strive to improve outcomes for each learner through a personalized approach.
Personalizing learning embraces equity along with excellence when it holds expectations high for each learner. And, school and district leaders must recognize that teachers also need the support and personalization of their own learning to ensure success in addressing learner variability in their classrooms.
When done right, supported by research on how people learn and with a focus on whole-child development, personalized learning welcomes students as partners in their education and turns schools into places where ALL are inspired to learn and have the best chances for success.
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