Defining Personalised Learning
Personalised learning is an approach to learning that emphasises on giving the ownership to the learner about their own growth. This approach integrates qualitative and quantitative data to best understand each learner. Learners are the true agents of their own learning. They have many choices and articulate what, why and how they learn. This agency is at the forefront of PL.
Information such as learner profiles (strengths, passion, needs, interests) are deliberately collected and analysed to develop multiple pathways and allow students to advance with their learning, at their own pace. The learners are challenged and able to accelerate their learning with customised pathways.
In this context, they take ownership of their learning and are part of the big picture. All stakeholders (learners, educators, parents) are part of the Personalized Learning journey. This is a transparent process.
Competency-based Education is often connected to Personalized Learning. Students have to demonstrate their mastery in a particular competency in order to proceed to the next competency.
The time is flexible in a PL environment because it’s not as rigid as a system of grade level and age-groups. Students move to the next content area or competency when they are ready. Some might accelerate their pathways, others might take longer. This ideally requires that schools develop PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) where teachers collaborate to design the best learning opportunities for their learners. For example, they might co-design tasks and assessments that are inter/trans-disciplinary. But often, students themselves design their own demonstration stands and criteria.
A PL teacher is not planning the content to teach but designing the learning environment (physical, socio-emotional and virtual) in order to let the students take ownership of the goal and the ways to achieve them. The teacher is more often responding here and now, rather than anticipating and planning each move. The teacher is flexible and ADAPTS to the learner rather than the student adapting to the curriculum.
Using competency-based learning systems allows learners to challenge themselves at every step of their learning curve. They become more self-directed and can self-differentiate to achieve at their level. This kind of system allows multiple modalities to emerge so learners cultivate agility, build strengths and discover new passions. When we offer possibilities, the learning environment (physical, socio-emotional and digital) encourages a culture of ‘can do’ and empowers learners to perform at a high level.
For example, when designing assessments, I incorporate the criteria, create student friendly rubrics and encourage student’s voice and choice in the process (we sometimes co-design the assessments and very often, learners self- or peer-review their work). However, beyond those regular practices, I thoroughly enjoy incorporating innovative practices that further support student agency. For example, by using inclusive practices to meet everyone’s needs but beyond ‘needs’, create space for personalised learning so learning can be accessed with various pathways and can be guided by learners’ own actions. They can decide what to learn and how to learn. They challenge themselves and we can identify many ways to record learning evidence. Using inquiry strategies such as split screen, notice and release and visible thinking routine, learners introspect into the approaches to learning which accelerate learning as – learning how to learn – is as important as the content the learners wants to access.
Questions surrounding Personalised Learning
Agency combines student voice, choice and ownership. As we move away from a teacher-centred environment towards a learner-driven environment, we might ask ourselves a few questions…
Who might be in charge of deciding what learners should be learning about? By when should they have learned? How they should advance? and where learners are learning?