Exploring personalized learning

What is personalized learning and what could it do for students?

Several teachers at Central Valley CSD have introduced personalized learning in their classrooms. To understand why, it’s important to learn a little about it.

The term “personalized learning” probably doesn’t mean much to anyone outside education circles. Even among educators, it can be confused with other concepts such as differentiated instruction and individualized instruction.

So what is personalized learning? Simply put, it is learning that is:

  1. Tailored to the preferences and interests of various learners and
  2. Paced to a student’s unique needs.

At Central Valley, we have adopted a vision of personalized learning that says, “We are all learners working to reach our full potential through individual goals and pace, with flexible time and space.”

This vision recognizes that students are unique in personality and development. Meeting students where they are is key to achieving the district’s mission:

Central Valley School District will provide a relevant, progressive educational and social foundation to graduate all students as lifelong learners prepared for career and/or college.

That sounds pretty simple on paper, but is more complicated in practice.

Why? Because a single classroom is made up of a wide range of students. Some easily understand the material, others struggle to understand, and others fit at various places in between. Focusing on one student or one group risks not meeting the needs of another.

The challenge is how to deliver that personalized learning to each student. A teacher can’t be in two places at once and schools can’t afford a one-on-one tutor for every child.

One solution comes with the introduction of technology. Technology puts almost unlimited learning resources in the student’s hands. And that’s another thing that makes personalized learning so powerful – the student takes control and ownership of learning. They learn to participate and to do it for themselves. (And that fits into our goal of making every student a lifelong learner.)

That doesn’t mean the teacher doesn’t teach – it means looking at teaching a different way. Instead of giving out information (students can find that in books and on the Internet), the teacher facilitates (helps or guides) students to find and apply that information.

A bonus of using technology is that parents can have access to those same resources. Parents who want to help with homework can see the same material their children see. Parents can become facilitators – like teachers.

More information

Here are some resources that take a deeper look into personalized learning: