By Larissa Milne, Head of Teaching & Learning, Dwight School Dubai
To visualise what personalised learning is, imagine a classroom where no two students are the same. I have heard personalised learning be compared to a gardener – a gardener constantly observes, monitors and reflects to create the optimal conditions for the growth of individuals in a community. A gardener cannot give the same amount of water and sunlight to each plant; they must look at each plant’s individual needs.
Personalised learning should be something that all students have access to, but what does this actually mean and how does this work? With many students in one class, it sounds like a daunting task for teachers to put every student on a personalised journey.
At Dwight School Dubai, we do just that, with an enhanced focus on teaching and learning. Some strategies that we employ to personalise learning are based on extensive research of best practices for High Impact Teaching Strategies; these strategies have a measurable impact on student attainment and achievement.
Personalised learning should be something that all students have access to
Our top four strategies include:
Activities are designed to suit each individual ability in the class. This means that there are many variations to an activity for each level. Therefore, every student in the class works on a different activity, with differing levels of difficulty and challenge.
An important strategy for personalised learning, Tiered Instruction allows teachers to teach the same concept or skill targeted at different learners. This means that all students are appropriately challenged through different learning styles and learning needs. In addition, this type of personalised learning encourages students to be fully engaged with their own learning fostering a growth mindset.
A thinking framework based on the research of Benjamin Bloom, Bloom’s Taxonomy promotes the cognitive processes utilised when learning. Although Bloom’s original taxonomy dates back to 1956, there have been various studies and versions which are still relevant to the ways in which learning takes place today. The process includes remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, and creating.
Focusing on the thinking process outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy allows teachers to sufficiently target their instruction to individual learning objectives of the students in the class. When each thinking process is applied by the student within a lesson, the different learning levels within the classroom are catered for.
By choosing their own level of challenge, students are more likely to push themselves further, taking risks with their learning and aiming higher
Stretch and Challenge
The idea of providing opportunities to extend the students’ learning through higher-order thinking and application, whereby teachers provide challenging tasks to boost thinking rather than simply providing ‘more of the same work’.
This technique provides an environment in the classroom where students aim higher, promoting attributes such as inquiry and risk-taking in learning and an atmosphere of excellence.
Often a misconception or oversight is that differentiation is just for lower ability students. However, to truly personalise learning, all levels of learners need to be catered for and sufficiently challenged regardless of their learning entry point.
With Self-Determination Theory, student success is reliant on motivation, and that motivation is more likely to occur when learners have ownership over their learning processes. In a classroom, this means allowing students to choose their own level of challenge.
By choosing their own level of challenge, students are more likely to push themselves further, taking risks with their learning and aiming higher. It also means teachers provide various learning opportunities and tasks for students to choose and take ownership over, rather than giving everyone in the class the same task or telling students what they have to do. It is about providing a choice of challenge levels. Regardless of your child’s ability, every school must embrace each child’s individuality, which is why personalised learning is so important. After all, what would you prefer, a one size fits all approach or an educational journey tailored to your child’s needs?