5 Personalized Learning Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

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Personalised learning can seem like an impossibility when you run your eyes over the 20, 30 or even 40 students in your class. But student count isn’t going to be what makes or breaks personalised learning in your class or school.

Here are the 5 most-maddening roadblocks to personalised learning and what you can do about them.

1. Defining What Personalised Learning Is (And Isn’t)

Personalised learning is the intent to meet the educational needs of individual students based on their interests, aspirations and backgrounds.

But attempting to define personalised learning is an attempt to standardise something that is meant to be variable – creating quite the conundrum when it comes to really understanding how to implement it. Part and parcel of personalised learning is the ability of students to play a role in their learning path, otherwise known as student-driven learning. Instead of trying to define personalised learning, let’s take a look at a few things it isn’t.

PLE is not:

  • Each student picking an online game or module to use independently during class everyday.
  • Generating Individual lesson plans for each student
  • Only possible with technology.
  • A term that can be wrapped up into a neat little definition.

When we understand what personalised learning really means, we are better positioned for success.

2. Getting Buy-In From Above

You’re ready to implement personalised learning in your class or you are currently facilitating it in some shape or form – you want to do more, but you need support from your superiors. Whether it’s funding, new materials or just general support, top-down support does tend to be the biggest barrier.

In fact, a recent study by Education Elements surveyed 450 educators, including district leaders, school leaders, teachers, private businesses and other groups across the USA, found that the most substantial challenge to personalised learning was getting others to buy into the idea.

In order to convince your superiors of the importance of personalised learning you need to go to them prepared with a strong case. Help them understand the truly transformative nature of personalised learning. But more than this, a deep foundational understanding of the district’s definition and vision for PLE is necessary alongside a clear plan for implementation.

3. Finding Time For Implementation

As a teacher, you might have anywhere between 20-30 students in your class and the mere utterance of the word personalised sends palpitations to your chest. Implementing PLE can be a challenge; it’s time-consuming and requires a lot of testing and tweaking.

Remember: it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Once you pass the torch of learning design to your students, the load becomes a lot lighter. Rebrand yourself as the facilitator of your classroom’s learning, not the mastermind behind every possible action. Talk to your students about their role in this journey, offer them chances to design experiences, write proposals for future work they want to do – these practices not only take some of the work off you but gets your learners playing a more active role in their own education.

4. Reframing The Learning Process

Historically, teacher-led instruction was the primary method of facilitating learning. At the core of personalised learning is student-driven learning. Moving away from teacher-led instruction is sometimes difficult for students, teachers and even parents.

No longer the sole driving force in the room involves giving up a lot of control. But it can be so rewarding when students take to this style of learning. Learners leverage their own strengths to help their classmates with higher-level thinking. As they collaborate and question one another, they fill knowledge gaps and build a sense of community at the same time.

PLE also eliminates a major roadblock. When students are taught to lean on each other they can clear up issues quicker because they don’t have to wait for you, the teacher. It’s a real strength in a personalised learning led classroom. Students are responsible for their success and you’re there to facilitate the learning community.

5. Balancing The Pacing of Lessons

A key component of personalised learning is allowing students to learn at their own pace. However, this also presents a challenge. In some cases, students either move too quickly or too slowly. It’s important for teachers to keep an eye on this so no one ends up too far ahead or behind the class at the end of the term.

Solutions for this particular issue involve setting minimum paces, allowing more time for catch-ups throughout the day and building alternative pathways for students who master the content to move ahead.

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