Arlington Public Schools (APS) continues to cultivate engaging environments that create relevant and personalized learning experiences for all learners, regardless of background, language or disability. These personalized learning environments provide for educational experiences that are specifically tailored to the needs of each individual learner. It is committed to challenging all learners, preparing them to be college and career ready, and becoming responsible and productive global citizens. Our vision for personalized learning is that every teacher transforms teaching and learning that results in increased learner agency and academic growth for all. APS has laid the foundation for ensuring that students have equal access to information, opportunities and tools needed for learning by providing students and teachers with varied resources and tools. Learners are able to leverage resources to take greater ownership of their learning, and engage in activities that require them to solve problems, collaborate with others, and generate new ideas. APS is committed to ensuring instruction, curriculum and outcomes are connected to our learners’ unique talents, skills and interests and using technology to provide flexibility and choice for our learners.
What is Personalized Learning?
Classrooms that embrace personalized learning are learner-centered. The teacher’s role is one of facilitator as opposed to the gatekeeper or transmitter of knowledge. Teachers spend time guiding learners in analyzing, applying, and synthesizing information instead of memorizing and reciting factual information. As a result, learners are challenged to think critically and use higher order thinking skills. Engagement and motivation is increased as learners are allowed more opportunities to take control of their learning, where they are offered more voice and choice in how they consume content and how they demonstrate their learning.
Personalized learning is further defined by Rickabaugh (2016) as “Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress, and determining how learning will be demonstrated. At any given time, learning objectives, content,methods, and pacing are likely to vary from learner to learner as they pursue proficiency aligned to established standards. A fully personalized environment moves beyond both differentiation and individualization.”
Six Areas of Focus
Personalized learning implementation focuses on the follow areas:
- Student Voice: The learner contributes to the design of lessons, projects and assignments. Through teacher solicited feedback, learners have opportunities to share their opinions and interests. This leads to the teacher and learner co-designing learning opportunities that lead to greater student engagement and ownership
- Mastery Learning: The learner is focused on mastery of concepts and/or standards. Subject matter is broken into smaller learning targets that learners should master by the end of a course or unit of study. Teachers assess learners using varied standards-aligned activities and identify the appropriate level of their proficiency.
- Goal Setting, Assessment, and Feedback: The learner sets, plans and achieves personal learning goals and is intrinsically motivated to own and drive their learning. Assessment activities are ongoing and are given throughout the learning cycle. Using these assessments, teachers provide explanatory feedback that is immediate, high-quality and connected to curriculum goals and the learners’ personal goals.
- Flexible Pacing: The learner moves toward proficiency at his or her own pace. Learners are able accelerate their learning as targets are mastered or decelerate their learning to review targets that need more attention. Progress through the standards is based on growing mastery and not set seat times.
- Choice: The learner has choice in how they learn and options in how they demonstrate mastery. Learners under- stand their learning preferences and are able to choose strategies, approaches and tools to facilitate their learning. Choice allows learners to become more self-regulated, recognize their preferred learning environment and gain a better understanding of themselves as a learner.
- Individualized/Differentiated Instruction: The teacher provides direct implicit instruction, based on data and closely aligned with students’ needs and prior knowledge. While learners vary in their preferences of styles of instruction, targeted instruction based on learner needs is still necessary for student success.
Benefits of Personalized Learning
With personalized learning we see many wonderful benefits.
- Classrooms are learner-centered and the teacher’s role is to guide learners, rather than just being a gatekeeper or a single source of knowledge.
- Through personalized learning, learners are challenged to think critically and use higher order level skills.
- Learners are more engaged when they are given more opportunities to take control of their learning.
- Teachers are able to offer immediate feedback so that students can make adjustments to their thinking and improve on their work.
- Learners are exploring more creative ways to solve problems, express their ideas, generate new learning and develop skills to work as part of a team in the classroom and virtually.