In 2015, the Michigan State Board of Education identified as a priority, “Increasing the use of personalized teaching methods, including the integration of technology for K-14 students to improve learning and outcomes.” In 2016, The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released their plan to become a top 10 state in 10 years, which incorporated personalized learning as 1 of its 7 strategies. While the state has a strong focus on personalized learning, many local districts in Michigan are just beginning to develop their understanding around this educational concept.
What is Personalized Learning?
Personalized learning occurs when the student has a degree of choice over his or her education in terms of delivery, context, and pacing. Individual outcomes and how proficiency will be demonstrated is collaboratively defined. The student’s interests, experiences, and abilities guide his or her learning, making new information more relevant and meaningful. This approach has the potential to build the student’s capacity and desire to learn beyond the scope of the curriculum and the confines of the classroom.
The 5 Misconceptions of Personalized Learning
“Personalized Learning” has become an educational buzzword, which has created some misconceptions around what personalized learning actually looks like and and how it works. Below are 5 common misconceptions about personalized learning, each of which are followed by clarifying information to address these misconceptions.
Misconception #1 : Personalized Learning is Just Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is a component, but represents only a single way of accomplishing personalized learning. There are other essential components educators must incorporate to personalize learning for students. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has identified 10 essential components of personalized learning, which are:
- Student agency
- Differentiated instruction
- Immediate instructional interventions and supports for each student is on-demand, when needed
- Flexible pacing
- Individual student profiles (personalized learning plans)
- Deeper learning and problem solving to develop meaning
- Frequent feedback from instructors and peers
- Standards-based, world-class knowledge and skills
- Anywhere, anytime learning
- Performance-based assessments (project-based learning, portfolios, etc.)
Misconception #2 : Personalized Learning Requires Technology
While technology is beneficial, it is not a requirement for personalized learning. The essential components identified above can all be achieved without technology. However, the integration of technology can improve the effectiveness and efficiency in a personalized learning environment. For example, teachers can use technologies, such as Edify, to assess students’ understanding of content and provide immediate feedback and support through online resources aligned to students’ needs.
Misconception #3 : Personalized Learning is Individualized Instruction
There are many individualized learning technologies that can support students through self-paced learning experiences. While individualized learning can support a personalized learning environment, it is not enough to engage students in a deeper learning experiences. Learning is a social process, so students must be provided with opportunities to communicate and collaborate with their peers. Students also need to be engaged in personalizing their own learning.
Misconception #4 : Personalized Learning is in Conflict with MTSS
One of the principals of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is providing the most effective instruction to all students. This is achieved through several practices, including the use of research-based core curriculum, evidence-based instructional practices, and data-informed decision-making. Assessments are also used to help identify students who may need additional supports and interventions. The data collected from these assessments are used to develop a student profile, which teachers, parents, and students can use to personalize learning based on a student’s needs.
Misconception #5 : Personalized Learning is Not Supported by Kent ISD
Kent ISD supports educators in a variety of areas, including personalized learning. We also host the annual Personalized Learning Conference. This event builds awareness and understanding of how to personalize teaching and learning for the purpose of increasing student learning outcomes. Conference highlights include:
- Conference Kickoff with Laura Hilger, Teaching and Learning Senior Coach at KnowledgeWorks
- Conference Keynote with Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer at KnowledgeWorks
- Over 30 sessions focused on personalized learning
- An all day makerspace facilitated by Kent ISD’s STEM Consultants
- Unique conference schedule that allows for informational, discussion, and hands-on sessions
- Registration is only $50 and includes lunch
- SCECHs are available
- Additional opportunities for site visits to a schools implementing personalized learning (Kenowa Hills Public Schools and Kent Innovation High)
- NovaNow PBL Workshop, which will help educators understand and implement project-based learning
This blog post was written by Andrew Steinman, Education Technology Consultant for Kent ISD and edited by Amanda Walma, Professional Learning Coordinator at Kent ISD.