Personalization is here to stay. We have music apps that know our preferences and make suggestions based on previous selections. Workouts can be personalized based on height, weight, body type, and strength. Amazon and Netflix will choose items for you based on your browsing profile.
When you walk into Starbucks, do you order a black coffee, or do you get something more exciting, more suited to your taste? It has been said that there are over 80,000 different drink choices that your local barista can make for you. They never disappoint and always deliver.
Personalization is everywhere. Why isn’t it more prevalent in education? We are still choosing to try to fit all of our students into a one size fits all curriculum. It works for some, but not all students. It’s like ordering pizza for a little league team. While everyone will eat the cheese pizza, some would prefer a variety of toppings. In everyday life, we get to make choices, why not in the classroom? Choice leads to increased learning opportunities for our students.
Here are five ways to personalize instruction in your classroom:
- Get to know your students
One of the best ways to engage your students is to get to know what makes them unique. What are their interests? What music do they like? Movies? Sports? Books? You can relate the content of your lessons to their interests. Learning math for a budding sport enthusiast can be a lot more exciting looking through baseball stats than a boring textbook.
- Use data to plan instruction
I wrote about the power of assessments in an earlier blog. Information is power. It is vital that educators are data rich, information rich, not data rich, information poor. Use pre-assessment data to determine what your students have already mastered or to appropriately group them. Don’t waste time delivering instruction to students that are ready to move on or to students who need more scaffolding. Your own data should tell you where to start based on their needs, not a pacing guide created in a vacuum.
- Step away from the script
In my opinion, there is nothing worse than scripted curriculum. On day one – teach this. On day two – teach that. On day 5 – give this assessment. This script assumes that everyone learns at the same pace. We know they don’t. Use pacing guides as they were initially designed to be: a guide, not a bible. Alter your instructional pacing based on the needs of the students in your classroom.
- Utilize Project-Based Learning
Some students don’t mind writing reports or working through 30 math problems. Others consider this torture. Project-based Learning (PBL) is a great way to engage learning of all different modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Utilizing PBL is an equitable way to reach and engage all learners in your classroom and provide them with hands-on, real life problem solving opportunities.
- Invest in adaptive, web-based programs
I do not believe that computers will ever replace teachers. The human aspect is too vital to be removed. However, I do believe that adaptive academic software can be a powerful addition to an instructional program. Static programs move students along at the same pace. This can be very frustrating for those who want to move ahead and for those who need more time to master the concept. Programs that adapt to the ability and level of each student keeps them engaged at the level they need to be at in order to be performing at their own, personal best. Web-based programs give students the option of using them outside of school.
Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.