Personalized learning, which gives students a choice in how they receive education, often with technology, has effectively increased students’ college readiness and graduation rates at some schools. But, when implementing personalized learning initiatives, educators have faced many hurdles.
A recent study by Rand of 40 K–12 schools with personalized learning initiatives finds that teachers had difficulty implementing the education innovation, reports Education Week. Teachers tell Rand they didn’t have enough time to develop customized lessons or to balance the priorities of offering this kind of instruction versus meeting common standards. The educators report that when students worked at their own pace, many of them worked too slowly.
The study also reveals that the schools found a lack of high-quality digital instruction materials.
However, the Rand study finds that personalized learning provided teachers more one-on-one time with students, which boosted their understanding of where each student stood academically. Students also saw small gains in math and reading scores with a customized education, adding to the hope that with proper implementation personalized learning can be successful.
“It’s important to set expectations. This may not work everywhere, and it requires careful thought about the context that enables it to work well,” says John F. Pane, a senior scientist at Rand, in the Education Week article.
The Keys to Personalized Learning Success
The Rand study recommends that state and district policymakers lead the way for personalized learning implementation by allowing for flexibility in course progressions; revising grading policies to fit competency-based standards; and communicating these standards clearly to students, families and educators. The study also indicates that at the district and state levels, policymakers can look to early adopters of personalized learning programs for tips on proper application.
This is the impetus behind Rhode Island’s Lighthouse Schools Challenge Grant. As part of the state’s effort to foster more widespread personalized learning, policymakers challenged early adopters to submit models of personalized learning that can be adapted on a wide scale. The state’s Office of Innovation aims to offer support for learning efforts, curriculum changes and technology use.
Rand suggests that districts and schools provide teachers with the resources and the time to pilot new instructional approaches and collaborate with their peers on new ideas.
Future Ready Schools’ guidelines indicate that giving teachers the same personalized learning experience for professional development is also quite beneficial.
“There’s promise here,” Pane tells Education Week. “But, we have to do the scale-up in a way that’s cautious and thoughtful.”