One Way to Personalize Learning in the Classroom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Image by Sujin Jetkasettakorn


I recently participated in a chat about personal learning.  After the chat I spoke with colleagues about what is the best method (or one effective method) to integrate personal learning in the classroom.  I also read an insightful blog post by Darcy Mullin regarding that same topic. After clarifying the term personal learning, which took some time, my colleagues suggested that any integration needs to start at the beginning of the school year. So that’s where I would like to start …

While looking at my resources, I found that @tombarret has some great ideas in getting to know your students early in the school year.  Once the concept of community is cemented, how does an educator personalize students’ learning experiences in their own classroom?  The five actions below enable teachers to take risks and become more student-centered.  Students start to become more interested and responsible for their own learning when learning is personalized.

Five Actions (not steps) * Keep in mind that each action requires modeling

1.)  Survey stakeholders near the beginning of the school year

By surveying students and receiving honest feedback, educators will be better able to understand students’ needs (not just academic).  The background knowledge gained will enable educators to differentiate the curriculum based on specific needs.  If you’re looking for a good survey tool, check out the Google Docs survey creation tutorial.  Also, surveys give educators a heads-up to possible concerns early in the school year.

2.)  Analyze Formative Assessment or Pre Assessment Data

Students are generally given some type assessment related to the topic of study near the beginning of the school year. Give students an opportunity to analyze their own data and write a reflection on how they feel about their score.  It’s important to communicate that the reflections will not be graded in order to gain reliable information.  Instead of having students say I did well, you could direct the student to describe what in particular was exceptional.  Students should also reflect on the teacher’s feedback.

3.)  Students set goals

After reviewing the reflections and teacher feedback, students set attainable goals for themselves. The key is to have the students create goals that are attainable. Don’t underestimate the power of student goal setting.  I’ve found that student goal setting often leads to more responsibility.  Modeling is vital for this action.

4.)  Offer Choices

After analyzing the assessment data and reviewing personal reflections, students are given the opportunity to choose how they will be assessed.  I understand that some assessments are not optional, but the teacher can utilize a variety of formative assessments designed to meet the students needs. The students will choose one assignment (could even be a collaborative group assignment) to complete from a variety of potential assignments.  The assignments should vary and could even target specific learning styles. After the assignments have been completed, students will reflect on their learning and the teacher will use a rubric to score each assignment.  Students feel (and are) in more control of their learning when they can choose their assignments. This action helps put students in the center of the learning process.

5.)  Offer Student Conferences

Students may view their assessment results and reflect on how much they have learned.  Students participate in individual conferences with the teacher to monitor the learning that has (and is) occurring.  This is also a good time to check-in to see how the student’s goal is progressing.  Students can also suggest alternative curriculum topics to explore.



Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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