In the previous post I wrote about the power of personalized learning. In a nutshell, this is the cultivation of leaners’ skills and abilities through the awareness of their interests and needs (Yonezawa, McClure, & Jones, 2012). Because of typical challenges such as large classes, change of teachers’ beliefs and substantial preparation time, personalization may appear like rather hard to incorporate in one’s lessons. However, your teaching style may inadvertently comprise many of the interest-based practices and personalized tactics. All you need to is to adapt and develop them according to your students’ needs. Below are the informal strategies I usually practice with my students to stimulate personalized learning.
- Call students by their names.
To students there is nothing more obnoxious than the teacher who does not differentiate the students by their names or regularly confuses them with the others (Bruner, 1966). Referring to learners by their names is a very helpful way to initiate friendly, respective relationships in which students feel recognized and valued as individuals. If the students’ names are unusual or difficult to remember, from the very beginning try using simple things like name tags, associations and photo posters.
- Know your students’ interests and needs.
“One size does not fit all” is the principal feature of personalized learning (Yonezawa, McClure, & Jones, 2012, p. 68). Delivering new information in a way relevant to each student significantly facilitates knowledge acquisition. Therefore, try to always stay informed. Learn as much as possible about your students’ preferences and current trends. You may use immediate feedback on the lessons as well as purposefully designed questionnaires to gather information, which will later be used as a foundation for more personalized lessons.
- Use adequate amount of group work.
In large classes the personalized approach may become unmanageable. To deal with this challenge, the teachers should use group work, uniting students according to their interests and the lesson objectives. The key point here is to constantly mingle students and change the group size. In such situations, collaborative learning may become beneficial for increasing concentration of the students and their communicative competence.
- Embrace technology.
Now technology is everywhere. Your students are quite likely to be very competent in using new gadgets and devices for various purposes. Why instead of rejecting and prohibiting not to embrace technologies? Delivering instruction through various forms of media may considerably increase leaners’ engagement, collaborative participation, interest in your subject, frequent interaction and feedback. Are you tired of girls constantly taking selfies? Suggest a contest on the most unusual selfie where students can practice their presenting skills. Different variations may include recording videos, starting own blog on the web and even using e-dictionary instead of its hard copy.
- Provide students with options.
Rigid way of teaching seriously reduces student motivation and engagement. When having no freedom of choice, the learners may totally lose their interest to the subject. Consequently, giving students options can be very beneficial. This raises the sense of personal control and learning ownership. For example, your students may select to write a 300-word piece of academic writing about racial segregation or to do a small-scale Interned-based research and presentation on the same topic.
Considerate teachers personalize learning — calling students by their names, knowing about their interests and differentiating lessons for them. Some may prefer to go further and design own materials and activities suitable for students needs. Personalization can definitely become a powerful tool of student transformation in the hands of thoughtful educators.
Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Yonezawa, S., McClure, L., & Jones, M. (2012). Personalization in schools. Boston, MA: Jobs for the Future, 42.