A recent conversation at EdcampLV (facilitated by Marc Gosselin) helped me understand that how we individually conceptualize personalized learning is dependent on what we actually believe about learning.
Most of us have lived the dominant school-centered paradigm of learning where we “give” learning to the learner. It’s about what we think learners should know, how and how quickly we think they should get to knowing it, and how we think they should demonstrate they’ve “learned” what we’ve “given” them. Those of us who believe in this dominant paradigm will frame “personalized learning” as something given to learners. “I (or this computer program) will personalize your learning.” Learning becomes the efficient process of transferring knowledge from one person to another. But this is not how people learn.
There is another paradigm – the learner-centered paradigm. In the learner-centered paradigm, learning is done by and with the learner. Based on the learner’s needs, passions and strengths, teachers create conditions in which the learner has opportunities to make their own meaning, in their own time, with whomever they work best and with the ability to determine how to demonstrate the learning. When the learner owns the personalizing, they see value. When the learner sees value, they will learn better. Only the learner can do the work of learning. The role of teachers in the learner-centered paradigm is to know the learners (through learner profiles) and create the best conditions for learning to occur. Learning in the learner-centered paradigm is not necessarily efficient. In fact, it can be downright messy and time-consuming.
Getting to an understanding of personalized learning through the learner-centered paradigm is no easy task. It can’t be done through a clear, efficient “definition.” That would be learning through the dominant “delivery” paradigm. But rather, we each have to arrive at an understanding in a learner-centered way! Not so easy as we’ve all lived in this dominant paradigm for so long.
Here are some resources that may help as you move along your journey to conceptualize personalized learning through the learner-centered paradigm:
- Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization from Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Notice the use of “teacher” and “learner” at the top of the chart. Personalization is about the work of the learner. Differentiation and individualization are about the work of the teacher.
- Two books by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey: Make Learning Personal: The What, Who, WOW, Where and Why; and How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. These have been my go-to for personalized learning.
- Barbara has been on the TLTalkRadio podcast twice (Season 2, Episode 5; Season 3, Episode 7) to talk about personalized learning. Look for an upcoming episode with Kathleen on personalized learning and UDL (universal design for learning).
- A couple of additional TLTalkRadio episodes focused on personalized learning through the learner-centered paradigm: Season 3, Episode 8 with Dr. Lynell Powell, Professional Learning Specialist in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Season 3, Episode 9 with Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda, authors of the ASCD book Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind.
- And coming soon….a new podcast series officially launching on May 9 – Shift Your Paradigm – from school-centered to learner-centered. This collaborative effort with Education Reimagined (and co-hosted with my colleague, Lynn Fuini-Hetten) will explore learning and leading through the learner-centered lens featuring conversations with practitioners – learners and leaders. Personalized learning through the learner-centered lens is happening in many places and growing. Tap into this podcast series to hear stories about real-world examples of learner-centered personalized learning across the country.
Personalized learning is a buzzword with different interpretations. One way to understand how we conceptualize it is to go back to what we believe about learning. Is learning the work of the teacher; or the work of the learner? Clarify your beliefs, then spend time with the resources above and engage in conversations with other educators, both online and offline, about how your understanding is developing.
What resources have you accessed to deepen your understanding of personalized learning?
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