10 Reasons I Wish My Children Could Have Experienced Personalized Learning

by Jim Rickabaugh, Director

I was asked recently what it is about personalized learning that would make me want my children to learn in that environment. The question started me to think from a parent perspective about the value of this approach. It reminded me of numerous conversations my wife and I had with our children, often around the dinner table, about their education and learning experiences.

It did not take me long to come up with ten reasons that would have led us to choose this approach for our children, had it been available.

  1. Our children would have known the purpose for their learning beyond, “You will need it for the test,” “You will need it for college,” or “Because I said so.” Far too often our children seemed to be learning because we expected it. They simply saw it as their job or a way to avoid negative consequences. In a personalized learning environment, the purpose for learning is front and center and serves as a guide for attention, effort and marking progress.
  2. In a personalized learning environment, the primary source of motivation is intrinsic, growing out of the learner’s interest, curiosity, needs and drives. This approach starts where the learner is and builds rather than trying to coax, threaten and manipulate in the name of learning.
  3. Learning in a personalized environment is focused on building the skills, strategies and perspectives that increase the learner’s capacity to learn, not just memorizing information to be recalled on demand.
  4. The focus of learning is driven by goals jointly identified by the learner and educator and aligned to challenging standards. The learner is supported to build action plans to achieve his or her goals, monitor progress and show that the goal has been achieved and the intended learning has occurred. For our children, setting and pursuing goals was something we spent a lot of time teaching and reinforcing. It would have been nice to have a school partner in this work.
  5. One of the key areas of focus in a personalized learning environment is nurturing self-efficacy. This helps learners understand they can accomplish difficult work and meet complex challenges if they use good strategies, apply the resources available to them and persist in a thoughtful and focused manner. As a result, risk taking is a natural process, including when it comes to learning.
  6. Engaging in the above processes naturally leads to learners feeling ownership for their learning. Learners take pride in what they have accomplished, value what they have learned and understand that learning is one possession that no one can take from them. Our children occasionally expressed pride in what they had learned and as parents we understood that when this was the case, they were more likely to retain and use what they had learned.
  7. Every day in a personalized learning environment learners are asked and supported to make choices, experience the results and learn from the path they choose. We know that a key contributor to success in life is the choices each of us makes. As parents, we regularly urged our children to make good, responsible choices. While they did make choices and sometimes had to live with the consequences, they would have benefited from more regularly experiencing choice making and the opportunity to learn from them in a safe, relatively low stakes environment.
  8. Personalized learning focuses on developing and assessing the skills of learners. Content remains important, but much of the information that has been the focus of learning in the past can easily be secured via technology. Content without context and application is of limited value. When we think of the changing world our children are experiencing and will experience throughout their lives, we know that they will need the skills necessary to continue to learn, even when they do not have access to formal educational supports.
  9. As learners develop the ability to set and achieve goals, take ownership for their learning, make responsible choices and build the skills necessary to be life-long learners, self-management naturally becomes a habit that they practice regularly.
  10. The goal of a personalized learning approach is to nurture and develop learners who can learn without over dependence on external structures and other people. As parents, we know that our children will not always be in positions to be taught in traditional ways and success may hinge on knowing what and how to learn without being told. They need the internal resources and skills to be independent, self-guided learners.

Our children were not able to experience a learning environment that was tailored to their needs and interests. They were not invited to play active roles in planning, implementing and evaluating their learning paths. They were not given many opportunities to develop their ability to learn independently. We did not have the option to select a personalized learning environment for our children, but we wish we had.

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