Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Report Talks to Teachers

A new report from two organizations that promote innovation in teaching offers guidance from teachers themselves about how to shift classroom practices in the direction of personalized learning. Among the advice: Observe in a classroom that's using personalized learning so that you know what it looks like; make sure your school leaders will tolerate failure as you try out new ideas; and educate the families alongside your students about personalized learning's tenets.

"The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers," developed by KnowledgeWorks and the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, used interviews with teachers, instructional coaches and principals to explore what makes personalized learning successful and to share examples.

In a world where information can be looked up with a simple voice query, the shift to personalized learning is an important endeavor, the report suggested. "In today’s economy, content knowledge alone is not the critical commodity," the authors wrote. "The true assets in today’s workplaces also include the knowledge, skills and dispositions to respond effectively to changes and to problem solve."

Achieving a personalized learning environment requires transparency, trust, mutual support and collaboration, according to the report. "Historically, teachers have been somewhat isolated in their own classrooms," said one teacher. "The personalized learning movement has changed the way that we think about communication, both inside and outside the classroom."

The steadying influence of school or district vision is also important, the report noted, in order to "strengthen the practice," as another teacher explained. "Teaching in a school where the vision of project-based learning is reinforced by the actions of the school leadership team, I feel professional development, student expectations and grading practices are clear and aligned. In this environment, where all teachers practice project-based learning, I find we speak a common language that has allowed me to be more creative and productive. It is motivating to work with teachers who share the same beliefs, and that energy helps sustain the practice."

The paper aligns interview findings to 10 district conditions for scaling personalized learning, such as curriculum, instruction, technology policy and assessment systems, as put forth by KnowledgeWorks in a previous report, "District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide for Scaling Personalized Learning."

"We've spent the past few years researching how to support an education system that puts students at the center of their education," said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO, Judy Peppler, in a prepared statement. "We've learned a lot from school districts about the environments needed for personalized learning, from the local, community level to ideal state-wide policies. This paper considers perhaps the most important level of the system: the teachers who spend every day with our students."

The report is available with registration on the KnowledgeWorks website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.