Personalised learning for better learning outcomes!

463

Amongst the approaches to learning, an approach seeing increasing interest and popularity is “Personalised Learning,” wherein the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) all may vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.


Sunil MohalThe world is changing at an increasingly faster pace. Yesterday’s technologies are outdated and the ones being developed today will probably be outdated by the time they hit the market. To develop skills amongst students we need to ensure that they remain globally competitive and develop as engaged citizens. This will happen through the development of skills such as critical thinking, complex problem solving abilities, collaboration and development of non-cognitive competencies which include amongst others the ability to successfully navigate relationships and solving everyday problems.

While developing a child’s skills we need to remember that there are three areas, broadly represented by physical development, cognitive development, and emotional development, which impact a child’s development. Any of these factors could greatly affect the development of the child. This would lead to great divergence in capabilities from child to child.

With multiple factors affecting a child’s development, we must realize that each child is special in his own way. Each child has different abilities and backgrounds which will affect his/her learning capability. Keeping that in mind; there is a need to take away “conformity” from the current education system. If the child’s capability and ability are different why have a one size fits all approach to education. In the words of US President John F Kennedy, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

Amongst the approaches to learning, an approach seeing increasing interest and popularity is “Personalised Learning”. This is also referred to as Individual learning. Personalised learning is an approach wherein the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) all may vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.

Personalised or Individualised learning is not a perfect science and is being approached in various manners, usually through the extensive use of technology. Technology helps to quantify and measure many aspects of personalised learning. There are two major approaches to Personalised Learning, the Blended Learning approach and the pure Technology Assisted Online Learning.

Blended Learning involves learning through both “in-person” learning and online learning. In person learning is when a teacher is physically present in a one on one basis or a one to many basis, either in a class environment or through a dial in facility. Technology allows optimization for collaboration as well. This approach often allows students to have control over time, place and pace of learning.

The key components of personalized learning are:

Learning targets or learning outcomes

Learning outcome describes the learning which learners will achieve. With a specific target in mind, you can set different outcomes for different students based on their learning ability. The various dimensions of Learning Targets are:

  • A learning target enables students to know what they are supposed to learn during a lesson.
  • They help build skillfulness in a student’s ability to assess themselves and be reflective. By having specific targets monitoring, learning is easy to assess.
  • Since students can assess the pace of learning they can determine modifications, if any, which may be required to ensure that the outcome is achieved.

Instructional approach

These are various strategies and techniques used by teachers to help students learn or reach their learning targets. Techniques could involve the use of audio-video gamification strategies enabling students to learn. The various facets of Instructional approach include amongst others:

  • The selection of teaching strategies.
  • Learner’s state of mind.
  • The instructor’s view of learning objectives and outcomes.
  • The various methods of assessment.

Learning assessments

Wikipedia gives an interesting perspective on “Assessment.” It states: “the term ‘assessment’ refers to all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.”

I view assessments as a means of measuring learning outcomes along with the utility chart course correction for learning targets, to modify them as the needs may be.

Pace of learning

This is another important segment of personalized learning useful to calibrate the appropriate level of learning for the individual. Based on initial targets measured by learning assessments we may need to adjust the pace / speed of learning. Personalised or Individualized learning is best explained by the following definition: “The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students.”

Though personalised learning is a relatively new field in education, a lot of funds are being pumped into research. The U.S. Department of Education has given half a billion dollars to districts that embrace the trend. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $300 million to support research and development around personalized learning. However no concrete evidence has emerged till date on its efficacy.

Sunil Mohal has been engaged in helping students and professionals maximise their skills for the last 30 years. He has been exposed to the Hospitality Industry and the Defence Services which have imbibed the virtues of customer service with discipline. Having setup Computer Programs in many of the leading schools in India; both Public and Government like JNV’s, he brings enormous practical experience of Academia. Sunil has been engaged in technology assisted learning solutions for almost 30 years. Having also engaged with some of the largest IT companies in the world he understands the enormous challenges of change and its impact on people.