January 06, 2019
How to Give Students Personalized Learning Moments That Matter
Ed note: This is a revised version of our article on providing the best personalized learning moments for students anytime.
Learning is a very personal thing, a completely subjective and unique experience for every student. It’s the moment when the learning sticks and becomes a tool that we internalize it that it becomes useful. These personalized learning moments are hard to predict, and that’s what makes them special.
As teachers, the role is a little more challenging. They’re expected to find ways to make this a regular occurrence in classrooms. No matter the student, grade, subject, or skill level, personalized learning moments must be made to happen as much as possible. Teachers often face this challenge when using personalized learning approaches.
Personalized learning is one of the 10 shifts of practice being used in schools all over the world today. In our bestselling book Future-Focused Learning, we describe it this way:
"Personalizing learning happens when learning becomes strengthened by a relevant connection between the task and the learner. We accomplish this by taking advantage of clear strategies correlating directly to our curriculum, pedagogy, and the learning environment itself, as well as using the endless possibilities that appear in front of us every day for creating informal learning opportunities, or teachable moments."
These are the strategies we use to give our students opportunities to experience memorable personal learning moments. Here’s the good news—as a teacher, you can make such moments an everyday discovery for your kids.
How to Create Personalized Learning Moments
Fostering paths for students to have personal learning moments is a life study in education. It’s a way of developing learning into unforgettable experiences for everyone. You may already be doing these things with your students. If so, you’re no stranger to the joy of witnessing personal learning moments happen every day.
Encourage reflection before response
Go ahead and ask some tough questions, and then give some time for consideration. A sure-fire way to prompt deep thinking and personal learning is to give students time to reflect on challenging questions.
Each student will consider and internalize challenges in a different way. They’ll connect to personal memories and knowledge to find relevance in a question. It’s a process the teacher is in a perfect position to guide their pupils through.
Focus on students’ interests
This is where creativity comes into play. Personalized learning moments happen when students answer challenges in ways they connect with. Everything from traditional artistic self-expression to building answers with technology happens here. Whatever medium excites the student can elicit personal learning experiences.
For instance, instead of writing an essay, students can demonstrate understanding by building a webpage or designing a poster infographic. They can connect to an issue by developing a filmed documentary or collaborate on a Google Doc with students near and far. There are also other tools students can collaborate with. In this process, their learning becomes velcro learning. It is remembered and valued well into the future.
Traditional teaching once had all students learning the same thing at the same pace. Those more advanced students would have to wait while others played catch-up. The slower students were forced to stress and struggle to reach the pack. Finally, there was always the group in the middle, and it was this group teachers would focus on. Fortunately, differentiated learning has changed all that.
Adapting to learners’ needs creates a rich environment for personalized learning moments to take place. A pre-assessment will help teachers figure out where students are before moving forward. ASCD has some great insights on this for you to consider.
Teach with enthusiasm and passion
Passion with purpose doesn’t just translate to loving what you do. It also encourages others to do the same, and this is certainly true in the classroom. Getting students excited about learning starts with a classroom teacher.
When you teach a subject with passion, students take notice. They wonder what all the excitement is about. They get caught up in a subject that’s taught creatively and inspirationally. Student engagement once again lays the groundwork for outstanding personal learning moments.
Planting the Seeds of Success
Learning is a lot like planting seeds. It takes time to nurture and grow. Also, it will grow much better in soil that is rich and fertile. The seeds are the lessons we give our students. The soil is their brilliant and creative minds. Finally, the fertilizer for growth becomes those precious personalized learning moments. Given enough attention through time, the mind becomes a garden in which beautiful things grow. So it is with our students.