Christensen Institute, March 7, 2019, by Thomas Arnett and Julia Freeland Fisher
In a recent post, we shed light on the difference between blended learning—an instructional modality that describes integrating technology to deliver some content—and personalized learning—a philosophy that believes in a combination of modalities and goals for better and (and in some cases, new) outcomes for students.
Though the definition of personalized learning could encompass many modalities, there are innovative classroom design and support components outside of standard pedagogical approaches that are often missed. Here, research reveals three considerations that go beyond the curriculum to help educators make students’ personalized experiences more effective.
Consideration 1. Have you thought about staffing structures?
Across the K–12 education landscape, teachers have by far the biggest impact on student learning and student experiences. Even in classrooms with the latest adaptive learning technology, an expert teachers’ professional intuition is still the best way to understand and address the myriad cognitive, non-cognitive, social, emotional, and academic factors that affect students’ achievement. Additionally, one of the most valuable forms of personalization is authentic, personal relationships between students and teachers. It, therefore, makes sense that any school looking to offer personalized learning should not only explore new technologies and instructional practices, but also think carefully about how to increase students’ connections with great educators.
In our recent research report in partnership with Public Impact, the Institute found that team teaching increases supportive relationships, as having many eyes on each student helped keep students from falling through the cracks; increased students’ chances of forming a strong, positive connection with at least one adult; and decreased the odds that a student risked going through a year with just one “really bad fit” teacher.
The report also found that support staff help schools personalize through small group instruction, giving students individualized support and relationships that helped them see success is possible.
Finally, the report revealed that blended learning, a modality often used to personalize learning, gave school increased flexibility in how to best use their educators’ time and talents. By letting online learning provide some instruction, educator teams could focus more on coaching students and addressing their individual needs instead of worrying about covering their course content. Software also gave educator teams data on student progress that allowed them to make their planning and interventions more targeted to students’ needs.