5 reasons personalised learning benefits pupils

Why teachers should embrace the benefits of personalised learning to help children develop their own educational skills

Children learning in a library

To be successful citizens and employees we need to help our children become confident, reflective and independent learners.

Sometimes, though, our focus on ensuring that students get the best results makes it difficult to find opportunities for children to do this.

One way that can help though is with personalised learning.

Rather than individual feedback or customised differentiation, personalised learning encourages students to see themselves as learners so they can follow their curiosities and passions through project-based learning and develop their ideas with support from technology and teachers.

Here are five practical tips that can help schools start to consider how best to engage with personalised learning.

1. Choice

Empowering students to make decisions about their learning can help them feel invested in the classroom and build up their own understanding of how they learn.

This could involve getting students to be part of the design of your lessons, by asking for feedback on a Post-it. Ask what students enjoy and what they would like to see more of in class.

Or offer students options about how they would like to present work: could students choose between an essay, newspaper article or info-graphic? Could they choose between a presentation, a PowerPoint or a poster?  

2. Variation

Offering a range of learning methods is another way of helping learners identify their learning styles. A student might discover hearing a presentation works better than reading a worksheet; another might find a discussion more effective.

Similarly, students might learn whether they work better individually or in pairs. However, it’s difficult to offer all these options in a lesson. Try rotating methods throughout the week and encourage students to reflect on which they found most useful.

3. Homework

Homework is a great opportunity for a project-based learning approach to personalised learning. It allows students to take pride in becoming experts in an area of your subject that interests them. 

Set a long-term project related to your module. Students should be able to choose a project that connects your subject with a "real-life" example or link their learning to personal relevance.

In history, for example, students might be interested in the fashion, music or art of the period that you are studying – they might be able to link it to how an aspect of culture has developed.

4. Problem-solving

Creating challenges and encouraging trial and error develop resilient learners. An important component of personalised learning is that students find strategies to solve problems. Do they like to confer with someone? Do they need to visualise the problem? Do they want to research more information?

Perhaps after a scientific demonstration, ask students to identify what processes were involved. Give them options of working alone, in pairs and you may want to provide other tools to help them figure out the puzzle.

5. Accountability

One concern with personalised learning is that if students learn what they want, they won’t have the knowledge and tools they need for national exams. 

However, part of personalised learning is to encourage students to invest in their work. Expect them to work hard and take pride in their work.

Providing success criteria and making sure students fulfill it ensures they understand their work will be assessed like anything – even though they might get there or show it in different ways.

Louise Turtle was an English teacher in Birmingham, and has recently moved to the US, where she is mentoring high-school students. She tweets @LouiseTurtle 

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