Personalised learning should not just be a catchphrase. It is something that must be actively cultivated in teachers who are struggling with the demands of 21c education. Personalised learning should be embedded in the thoughts and day-to-day practices of all teachers. But what does it look like? Lets talk about the basics and see if you are ready to begin your new teaching journey. (If you haven’t already started.)
Firstly and most importantly you need to be aware of two learning theories that have dominated the educational landscape for the last 35 odd years. They are a must know for all teachers. The first is known as ‘Multiple Styles’ and there is a wealth of evidence to support this approach in the classroom*. The idea behind Multiple Styles is that each child will learn in a vastly different way. I will leave you to research this theory, but here are some quick ideas to give you a flavour.
One ‘style’ of learning that some students will exhibit is the “Emotional-ego-centric’ style. This child will become very emotional if he/she is not treated as the most important in the class. To support the learning of this student it is vital that they are not asked to learn anything they won’t engage with. Secondly they must be treated as though the entire classroom revolves around them. This is not to be confused with the excellent Student–centred model. The Emotional-ego-centric child must be the only centre of the classroom. It is advisable not to have two Emotional-ego-centric learners in the class otherwise things become unbalanced.
Another Multiple Style is Mathematical-illogical. Students exhibiting this style must not be taught Maths in the traditional style. They should be learning in a way that seems very illogical to the teacher. It won’t make sense to you but the discovery-learning student will have it covered. Don’t panic, this student won’t be good at Maths per se, but may discover something much more important, creativity!
Lets move on to the second theory known as ‘Learning Intelligences”. The key factor is not to get Learning Intelligences and Multiple Styles mixed up. They are very different. Learning Intelligences has a broad well-documented research base behind it^. The idea is that students will develop and show outwardly different sorts of intelligences. One common type of Learning Intelligence is the Kinesthetic-Vitriolic intelligence. This student will learn best when allowed to touch to learn. This may also involve touching and taking possession of the property of other students and then dealing with any protests with a strong often vulgar verbal attack. This student must be allowed the freedom to learn this way and thus teach other students where they stand in the pecking order in the classroom.
Okay, that’s great, but how do I find out how my students learn best? To find out what Multiple Style and Learning Intelligence your students are, it’s best to just ask them. Children are remarkably accurate in assessing how they learn best#. If you then follow this up with a questionnaire rubric for both theories via a quick Google search then you are on your way!
Hopefully this has given you a little background to these important learning theories and the impact they have had on how we understand our students. If you are not using these theories to guide your teaching practice, you may just be letting your students down.
^ Not really
# Baseless drivel