Like thunder, personalized instruction has stormed into schools and classrooms straight from the wisdom of John Dewey. However, the chatter is devoid of substantial pedagogy or the tools and data to support successful implementation. Generally, personalization must, at a minimum, employ variations in approach, pace, learner’s prior experience and choice.
Variations in approach take constructivist theory into account. Dialog and debate are evident. There are different learning objectives for each student. Learning takes place anytime, anywhere. Social, emotional and cognitive dimensions of the learner are nourished and nurtured. All teaching and learning is collaborative. And, learners participate in self-evaluation.
Digital tools and data are essential to the pace of personalization. Personalized pace requires project-based learning. The pace of the learner is self-directed. And, the measure of achievement and progress is competency, not sequenced, based.
Personalization demands that the learner’s prior knowledge is credited. Longitudinal views of the learner’s achievements are a baseline for instruction. The learner’s life and work outside the classroom inform formal lessons. Personal potential anchors the teaching and learning of the student. And, the learner participates in the construction of what is studied and learned.
The pedagogy of personalization gives the learner the choice of what, when and how they study and learn. This includes, but is not limited to, the selection of projects. The community of the learner is a resource for the content of all lessons. Teachers serve as tutor, coach and/or facilitator. Lessons encourage and support individual and or group work. And, multiple tools are employed to support learner inquiry.
Each element of personalization is necessary to fulfill the promise of the pedagogy. Rhetoric will not suffice. Teacher capacity and ongoing development is vital to the successful implementation of personalized instruction. No less important is the provision of digital tools for each student and the requisite data that personalizes teaching and learning for the learner.
There is no simple implementation of personalization. Indeed, the teaching and learning is more complex and requires some mitigation from preparation for high-stakes accountability testing. Anything less will render the pedagogy of personalization a flash-in-the-pan reform.