My first experience with personalised learning was in a suburban primary school. There, with five other matured university students, I was left in charge of one group of six little learners. Together we were going to find out what numbers you could add to equal 7.
Before I’d reached their huddled desks, two of them were already finished and bored. Another two were steadily getting on with their work, arguing loudly about who would – and more importantly – would not – be coming to their birthday parties. It was brutal listening, but that’s another story.
The last two sat blankly staring at their paper. I said hello and asked them what they were working on and what they thought they had to do. The blankness persisted. I disregarded it as nerves and prepped my excited teacher voice to take them through the task.
They nodded as I spoke, and together we went through the different ways we could find out how to add to seven. We used our fingers. We wrote it down. We used fluffy dice as props.
Realisation lit the features of one face, while the other dimmed to confusion.
We were asked to wrap-up. 25 minutes had snuck by me without notice. Desperate to help this one holdout, I asked: ‘You put so much effort in today! Can you think of any way we might get to the answer?”
They looked up and said “…seben?”
One student of six, in a class with five other student-teachers, helping 30 or more students, had dominated my focus for the better part of half an hour.
Since day one of my studies, we’d been fed the mantra that ‘every student is an individual learner’ and that ‘we must pursue personal learning’.
If I’d failed that one student, how could I possibly deliver personalised learning to a class of 30?
Years later, I can say with certainty: absolutely.
Personalised Learning For Large Classes | Challenges and Solutions
We’re expected to understand and implement personalised learning that can meet the needs of various abilities and learning styles, and we know that with more students comes more variability.
However, these challenges can be overcome with good strategy, a lot of support, and a touch of luck.
Challenge 1: Choosing A Starting Point
There’s a lot of information out there. It can be hard to cut through the noise to find an approach that will work best for you. Information can be a friend, but at times it feels overwhelming.
Solution: Reach Out To The Teaching Community
Nearly all problems are old problems. Chances are someone has been where you are now and can help you out. Google, teacher forums and social media groups, or even colleagues across your school network might have one or multiple solutions to your problems.
Remember, it takes a village. In the early days of your PLE journey, collaboration will be your most important tool.
Challenge 2: Reframing the Learning Process
A core part of personalised learning is student-driven learning. Teacher-led instruction takes a backseat, meaning you become a facilitator of learning rather than the sole source of knowledge in the room.
This can be nerve-wracking as it feels counter-intuitive – if students aren’t coming to me for answers, then why am I here?
Solution: Letting Go of Control
Embracing this approach can be hard for students and teachers – especially in bigger classrooms.
For us, it means giving up control; for students, it means autonomy and responsibility. They become empowered to solve problems and find solutions and answers on their own. In turn, they pass on this knowledge to their peers.
The new classroom environment can transform into one of collaborative learning: less dictation, more ‘what’s on the agenda for today’.
To allow the learning process to thrive, we need to let our students become our co-pilots on their respective learning journeys.
Challenge 3: A Lack of Technology
When you have a bigger classroom, access to technology often becomes more of an issue.
You might have one computer for every 10 students. If you’re lucky, there may be some tablets available to loan from the library. But whatever way you slice it, it’s usually not enough to cover the class in any meaningful way.
Solution: Using Other Resources
Technology doesn’t make or break personalisation in classes. If the resources aren’t available, we need to explore other options, like setting up lessons where tech is cycled in and out of different groups, introducing books where possible, or finding activities that can be completed in place of a device.
Personalisation Is Worth The Effort
When we can shift our view of PLE from overwhelming to exciting, we open ourselves up to an opportunity that encourages students to take a more active role in their learning.
So, hang in there – it’s worth the wait!
More from the blog…
In summary: Mathematical fluency skills help students think faster and more clearly, giving them the energy, attention and focus to tackle
Six Examples of What Personalized Learning Looks Like– Edelements.com
What Personalized Learning Is Not– Edsurge