This assignment is written by Emily Miller and Lindsay Morton.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures around the world put huge pressure on the education system to pivot and quickly find an effective alternative to in-class instruction. During the time of remote teaching and learning, educators were trying to gather as many resources as they could and put together a comprehensive program, however, it was done as an emergency response. Student engagement is difficult at any time, let alone transitioning to fully online classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12. As time went on for remote learning, teachers noticed a decrease in student engagement as students interests and enthusiasm waned. Teachers are now worried about possible gaps in understanding as well as loss of academic growth during school closures and (optional) return to school.
Comparing research on impacts of school closures due to extended absences, summer vacation as well as inclement weather, it shows that “students will likely (a) not have grown as much during the truncated 2019-2020 academic year and (b) will likely lose more of those gains due to extended time out of school. Based on our projections, students will return in fall 2020 with approximately 63-68% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year and with 37-50% of the learning gains in math” (Kuhfeld, Soland, Tarasawa, Johnson, Ruzek, & Liu, 2020). Access to parent and teachers support for learning during the school closure will produce a wider variation than what typical summer break would imply as well (Kuhfeld et al., 2020).
As a result, teachers need to find innovative ways to engage students in online learning to close the academic learning gap. One way to do so, is to consider personalized learning approaches to teaching and learning. It has become clear through years of research, “well designed personalized learning environments can transform both teacher and student behaviour and encourage students academic growth in ways that might not be possible” before (Basham, Hall, Carter, & Stahl, 2016). This was the impetus for the creation of a page focused on personalized learning on the collective blog site.
People learn in a variety of different ways, however, there are some constants for all members of the human race. These consistencies are: learning informally and incidentally, through self-directed, intentional study, monitoring progress and adjusting strategies, when our objectives are explicit and get plenty of practice, through discovery, and are motivated to learn when the teacher connects personally with us (Redding, 2013). If teachers can find ways to build this into their in-person and digital classrooms, their students are more likely to have better academic success.
There are five foundational components of personalized learning for students, which build off of the ways in which people learn effectively. The first component is self-regulated learning environments. In order for students to develop independence in their learning journey, they need to develop self-regulation strategies of forethought, performance, and self reflection (Basham et al., 2016). The second is transparent and actionable data. This means that when data is collected from students’ academic achievements, it is being communicated in a clear and concise way within a reasonable timeline so students have an understanding of what they know (Basham et al., 2016). Alongside this, is the third component, personalized learning, which is continual feedback. Continual feedback is timely and allows for students to know how to improve and make a plan for where they need to go next with their learning (Basham et al., 2016). The fourth component is the integration of learner voice. Integrating a learners voice can be anything from having the students come up with their own inquiry questions to co-creating assessment criteria for assignments and activities (Basham et al., 2016). The final component is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This means that when teachers are planning their learning activities, they are considering accessibility for all students (Basham et al., 2016). These foundational components helped formulate the sections of the blog for teachers to consider when planning. In the blog, the sections have been separated into strategies to support a variety of learners. These sections include: ELL, students needing math support, students needing literacy support, students with visual and auditory issues and considerations teachers should make when planning for the fall – communication, flexible content, pacing, Learning Management Systems (LMS), and assessment.
These foundational components were also taken into consideration when designing the personalized learning section of the blog. Each section includes different modes of communication – visual, video, auditory, and text. In addition, the content is flexible, editable, and is open for suggestions based on learners’ experiences and input. While viewing the content, there is no pressure to get things done all at once, so the pace is flexible and personalized. The platform and design is consistent across the blog which is acting as our learning management system. And finally, we have assessed, critiqued, and evaluated the content that we have included in the blog to ensure that it is well researched and applicable for teachers transitioning into the fall teaching term.
According to Patrick, Kennedy and Powell (2013), “personalized learning means tailoring learning for each learner’s interests, strengths, and needs. This approach encourages flexibility to support mastery and enables learners to influence how, what, when, and where they learn” (Basham et al., 2016). It is not a new concept or idea; the personalized learning theories of today are heavily influenced by educational philosophy from the Progressive Era – especially John Dewey – with a focus on experimental, child centered, social learning, and preparing students for a changing world (Redding, 2013).
The idea of personalized learning requires a fundamental shift in the way we think about education as teachers and learners. A personalized learning approach not only “requires a shift not only in the design of schooling (i.e. time, curriculum, and instructional delivery methods), but also in how educators view and use technologies” (Redding, 2013). The increase in access to technology and abundance of platforms and applications, has made personalized learning online more realistic for teachers and students. It is something worth considering and exploring as research has found that “both learners with and without disabilities can be successful in these personalized settings. In fact, there is some indication that learners with disabilities cannot only be successful but thrive in personalized learning environments” (Basham et al., 2016).
Basham, J.D., Hall, T.E., Carter, R.A., & Stahl, W.M. (2016). An Operationalized Understanding of Personalized Learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31(3), 126-136. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162643416660835
Kuhfeld, M., Soland, J., Tarasawa, B., Johnson, A., Ruzek, E., & Liu, J. (2020). Projecting the potential impacts of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement. EdWorking Paper, 20-226. Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University https://doi.org/10.26300/cdrv-yw05
Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., & Powell, A. (2013). Mean what you say: Defining and integrating personalized, blended and competency education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
Redding, S. (2013). Getting personal: The promise of personalized learning. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, & J. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on innovations in learning (pp. 113-129). http://www.centeril.org/
Pane, J., Steiner, E., Baird, M., & Hamilton, L. (2015). Continued Progress: Promising evidence on personalized learning https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1365.html
Redding, S. (2013). Through the Student’s Eyes: A perspective on personalized learning and practice guide for teachers. Center for Innovations in Learning