A Beginner’s Guide to Personalised Learning

Personalised Learning

Why is personalised learning so important?

Ask any group of students the question, “How do you learn best?” and there will always be at least one student who  answers differently to the others. Usually the answers vary a lot. Differentiating the way we deliver content is one of the most significant challenges to teachers today. But it is also the most crucial. The ‘challenge’ is that all students are different. Personalised Learning is THE solution.

Some students prefer problem-solving tasks. Others prefer rote-learning. Others prefer having to teach other students. Some just want to be lectured. So, how can we as teachers with a finite amount of time possibly plan for all of this, for several lessons per day, five days a week?

Easy! Only kidding. It’s never easy. However, I do want to share with you my three top tips for personalised learning which have helped me to cater for my students in a much more successful way.

Personalised Learning Tip 1: Know your students

There are few things more disheartening than spending hours planning a range of activities and producing the resources to go with them, then discovering that the students don’t want to engage with them. Or even worse, that they’ve had negative experiences with them in the past. However, you can plan for this by asking students (at the beginning of a term) how they would like their course to be delivered.

Last year I created a short questionnaire on Google Forms (it took literally five minutes), asking about the types of task my students prefer. Then, I asked which ones helped them make progress, which ones they found most difficult, etc. Finally, I emailed my students the link and received their concise yet detailed and honest feedback by the next day. Now I knew what they wanted and how I could make it work for them.

A further dimension you could explore is to ask students to evaluate their experiences so far and then to rate them. You can read more about how I get my students to rate their learning experiences in my Student Feedback post.

Personalised Learning Tip 2: Share the course outline

Students who know where they are headed and can see the checkpoints along the way will be less likely to “get lost”. They will be able to anticipate points along the way where they know that they may need more support, or conversely where they have existing knowledge. Sharing the course outline has the added advantage that students can begin completing their own Independent Learning, ahead of time on topics of their choosing. They will all naturally take different paths to the same destination.

Personalised Learning Tip 3: Students must respond to feedback

Each time a student responds to feedback in a specific way, they are personalising their own learning. Good marking holds up a mirror to the student’s own performance and provides opportunities and a structure for improvement. You’ve given your students guidance on how to remedy any weaknesses in their performance. It’s now up to them to act on it. Students build more resilience and independence when they take ownership of their learning, rather than relying on a teacher to do it for them. Higher exam results usually follow.

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