Personalised Learning: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

How can teachers use differentiated instruction to create different pathways to student success?

What is Personalised Learning?

Personalised learning is an educational approach that considers specific needs, interests and strengths of each pupil and provides a unique learning experience to learners on basis of those individual student traits. Teachers and students work with one another to create a customised learning plan for the classroom. Whether you are a charter school or an independent school, you will want the best for your pupils. In this article, we will argue that a personalised approach to school organisation doesn't necessarily mean an increase in teacher workload with developing extra instruction. We will present a new framework that can enhance all aspects of teaching. Working with our partner schools we have developed a novel approach to personalised learning design. Our partner schools have demonstrated how everyday classroom teaching can be adapted to scaffold lower attaining pupils whilst stretching the more able.

An important aspect of these learning plans is that they’re created using collaborative planning between educators and students. It empowers students and allows them to get involved in and take ownership of their learning experience. The learning actions within the framework can have a positive impact on all elements of teaching.

What are the characteristics of a Personalised Learning Plan?

Personalised learning provides students with additional learning experiences, which are a little different from a more traditional classroom. Following are the main characteristics of personalised learning:

  • Lessons are created according to the interests of the students;
  • Content, teaching style and goals of the lesson plans are geared toward the individual needs of each learner;
  • Personalised approaches to student learning are highly collaborative, as students with similar learning styles or interests often work together in groups; which helps them to build great social, leadership and communication skills.
  • A class teacher spends much less of his/ her class time delivering lectures to students inside the classroom and students have a choice of how to learn and what to learn;
  • The pace of instruction is adjusted according to individual student: lessons are taught to suit the pace of student’s learning;
  • Personalised learning technologies are frequently used to accomplish the objectives of personalised learning.

Using the Universal Thinking Framework to create personalised learning
Using the Universal Thinking Framework to create personalised learning

What are the main benefits of using a personalised learning template?

Personalized learning strategies benefit both secondary and primary school teachers and students in the classroom. They offer customised learning experiences to learners to pursue their education at their own pace and allow educators to focus on support, guidance, and long-term planning. Below are some of the top advantages of  personalisation of learning in the classroom:

  1. Improved Academic Performance: Possibly the most important benefit of implementing personalised learning in a classroom is that it improves educational success rates. Personalised learning improves the relationships between students and secondary and primary school teachers. Also, it allows students to pursue their interests and gain an education at their own pace. Consequently, students' classroom performance is noticeably improved. Research shows that when schools switch from traditional to personalised learning, their student's standardised test scores were greatly improved within 2 years.
  2. Helps Improve Soft Skills: Personalised learning also involves essential skill-building. It focuses on creating and practising soft skills such as empathy, communication, collaboration and creativity. Soft skills are important as learners prepare for an uncertain professional life. No one knows how commonly-used tech will change the job market in the upcoming decades. But, it is predicted that by 2039, nearly 30% of the global work will be automated. And soft skills will remain high in demand in an era of increased automation. Hence, personalised learning makes individuals ready to survive in an uncertain future job market.
  3. Master in School Subjects: When students are taught by a strategy that is best suited to their learning style and when students can work at their own pace, they master each topic on the curriculum. Students of a traditional classroom are taught each subject at a specific pace, which may leave some learners behind and some faster learners may become disinterested. Personalised learning enables each student to learn a lesson at their preferred pace, which allows them to properly understand the lesson and eventually master the lesson.
  1. Encourages Collaboration: A classroom with personalised learning opportunities provides an ideal learning environment nurturing a high level of collaboration. A class teacher and students work together to set goals and learning plans to meet the needs of the learner and the requirements of the educational curriculum. Personalised learning improves collaboration skills as learners are encouraged to work in collaboration with their peers and learn together and share information by way of group assignments and informal knowledge sharing.
  2. Improved Student Feedback: A personalised learning experience frequently involves easy access to Tech. The use of technology allows students to build self-advocacy skills and enables a class teacher to provide sooner and more frequent feedback to their students. Therefore, teachers, parents and students can sooner and better understand how well a learner has understood a new lesson and they can deal with any knowledge gaps as soon as possible
  3. 6. Educators can use their Class Time more Effectively: The personalised school approach involves the use of personalised learning technologies, which supports educators in spending less time on administrative tasks and allows them to spend more time in the delivery of quality learning and supporting students in achieving their potential. Online learning strategies help educators to reduce marking time. Personalised learning involves less classroom lecturing, which allows teachers to focus on providing one-on-one help to the students. Using an App for parents will help schools in parent consultation. These Apps enable termly parent consultations and enable parents to find out how their kids are performing in school. From seeing their children's current assignments to accessing the pupil report of assessment for learning purposes, parents can remain updated about their children's academic performance, without causing any added burden on teachers.

Quickly create personalised learning experiences for pupils
Quickly create personalised learning experiences for pupils

What are the common barriers to personalised learning?

One of the main reasons why the personalised school approach is not implemented well in every classroom is because it takes more time to properly follow personalised learning paths. Using the most easily accessible learning strategies and online platforms such as School Portals and Learning Management Systems (LMS) it is possible to remove the barriers that may prevent the primary or secondary schools classroom from becoming personalised. Some biggest challenges of implementing practical strategies of a personalised approach to teaching are:

  • Gaining a balance between competency-based procedures and fulfilling grade-level academic standards;
  • Difficulties in data-informed learning within the school’s IT systems;
  • Lack of effective teaching strategies training and familiarity with differentiated instruction and executing personalised and flexible learning plans.
  • Teachers' busy schedules or lack of time available to develop and apply personalised learning plans to suit the needs of students.

In personalised learning, the instructional approach and pace of learning are optimised by the needs of each pupil. Instructional content, instructional approaches, and learning objectives, all are customised based on individual learner needs. Also, learning activities are often self-initiated and relevant to students, driven by their interests. However, personalised learning is still in its initial stages. Schools need to do a lot more to ensure that the students are provided with a wide range of learning paths, customized learning experiences and additional learning opportunities that allow them to achieve their potential.

Giving children more instructional choice in the curriculum
Giving children more instructional choice in the curriculum


Moving a personalised learning agenda forward in your school

If your school is moving in the direction of customised learning experiences then we would advise you to have a look at the framework and think about how you could use it to design sequences of learning and assessments. We know that digital skills and analytical skills are critical for our current cohort of students. Using the framework, you can create assessments that dig deeper into critical thinking skills and go beyond multiple choice answers. Technology-enabled teaching has come a long way in recent years but this alone won't be the answer. Education systems need to rethink their philosophy around classroom instruction. Thinking more deeply about the delivery of content is a good starting point. Pupils enjoy collaborative activities that stretch their abilities. A 'one size fits all' approach using downloaded worksheets might not be the answer. The framework allows educators to think about content delivery in a very different way. Simply having the learning actions in your desk drawer gives frontline educators opportunities to take learning in different directions for different pupils. Personalisation does not necessarily mean reinventing the wheel, it's more about creating different pathways to the end destination.