“A deeper understanding of the child empowers us as educators to deepen relationships and educate appropriately and proactively.” – Kathy Walker
Personalized Learning (PL) looks different in every district because it is just that, personalized to fit each districts students needs. For example, check out Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in NC and Henry County in GA approaches to PL. The foundation of Personalized Learning is the same, classrooms are student centered with an emphasis on student ownership of their learning. There are many myths out there about PL and in this blog post it is time we dismantle them.
Myth #1. PL is a program: PL is not a program but a philosophy. It is being purposeful in doing whats best for students based on their data, goals, interests and learning styles.
Myth #2. PL is the same thing as differentiation, individualized and blended learning: All these instructional delivery methods are on the continuum to Personalized Learning but they are not the same. Below is a chart Allison Zmuda and I created to help educators understand the continuum:
Myth #3. Each student needs to have a different lesson: In PL there are not lesson plans like you might have been taught in college. In PL the teacher takes a different role from lecturer to a facilitator. (See previous blog post: The Shift of the Role of Teacher.) Many teachers use learning guides, curriculum maps or the different pathways they create based on skills vs the typical, I do, you do, we do.
Myth #4. There is no direct instruction: Yes, there is direct instruction but it is not through whole group. The direct instruction is through small mini-lessons based on the students needs. If you have students that have shown mastery in adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators then why would you have them sit in that lesson?
Myth #5. PL is ALL Technology: In PL technology is used as a tool to enhance their learning anytime and anywhere. This myth comes from many software companies that say their product is personalized learning because it is adaptive to national tests such as MAP or uses algorithms to push out curriculum for the student on their level. While having a technology platform like this can be helpful it is not what personalized learning is ALL about. Nothing will ever replace great teachers and a huge piece of PL is the relationships teachers have with their students because that is what keeps many motivated, not a program.
Myth #6. Montessori and PL are the same thing: The easiest way to describe the difference between PL and Montessori is that they are different approaches. In Montessori program the students use the environment to develop themselves verse PL schools use the content standards. Montessori education is about following the child’s interest and allowing the student to lead their learning. With PL the teacher facilitates the learning creating mini-lessons, choice menus, pathways etc setting the expectations for the learning environment. Montessori students are also in mixed age classrooms and they use specific Montessori learning materials.
Below are great resources on Personalized Learning, but remember every district, school and classroom is going to look different because it is what is best for the students needs.