The concept of personalized instruction goes hand in hand with personalized learning as two sides of today's educational process. Thus, personalization can be viewed from two perspectives: one of the teacher, and the other, of the student.
These two views share common ground, but I consider it important to differentiate between the two, mainly because education is not a one-way street, so the process includes both learning and teaching, with different responsibilities attributed to both protagonists -- the teacher and the student. Both parties have to take firm and active steps towards achieving the same goal: having educated minds able to face the challenges of our society.
Delivering personalized instruction one step at a time
In a previous post, I’ve talked about personalized learning, focusing on how a student can be an active participant in the educational process:
Read more: 5 Key elements of personalized learning
This time I want to tackle what personalized instruction involves in a two-part approach to the subject.
In this first part, I will discuss the role of the teachers and the connection they have with their students and peers that could facilitate the delivery of personalized instruction in education. Here are three things educators need to always know:
Know your role and own it
Since the shift from teacher-led and teacher-fronted instruction, teachers have struggled to find their own place and value in the classroom. Our role has changed from the main go-to source for information to merely a facilitator in students' own quest for knowledge, from decision factor to consultant, from a talker to a listener.
One thing's for sure, though: we have to move away from being a sage on the stage to being a guide on the side. This will give us a dual role of coach and adviser while students go center-field and you guide them from the side of it. I know this isn't easy, especially for the ones used to traditional teaching, but your contribution, even from a different standing point, is vital to every student's success.
It's not like you are going against the standard requirements in teaching. You are reinterpreting them. However, this does imply you have a fair knowledge of the educational system and create your own strategy and approach to it. Also, be ready to fail and accept it as part of the process. You may not succeed all the way, all the time, but your students will appreciate your desire to let go of your time and space in the classroom for them to reach their potential.
With these new habits in place, you'll discover yet another of your roles that's ever so important: feedback provider and facilitator. No matter what changes may occur in the teaching process, learners need feedback to validate their efforts. It gives them a reality check and fosters personal growth. Peer feedback is also beneficial to this growth because it gives students a sense of responsibility and empathy at the same time.
All these being said, before you dedicate your all to your students’ needs, you have to know who you are and where you stand as a teacher.
Know your students
Once you’re clear on your various roles in the classroom, you can focus on your students and how to make learning relevant for them.
We cannot expect our students to respond effectively to our requests without knowing what prior knowledge or skills they possess, what learning preferences they have, and what motivates them to learn.
Students retain information successfully in different ways: some are really helped by visual cues, while others need practical associations; students also come from various social backgrounds, and they have their own abilities and interests.
Teachers should not assume that one way of presenting facts or one way of assessing can be universally relevant for all students. This means we have to accept that the one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
While in larger classrooms is harder to know exactly what works for every individual student, a little variation in teaching methodology will suffice. Or, if you want to be more on the point, you can involve your learners in every step of the instruction including assessment, having them come up with suggestions and solutions on how they want to learn and be evaluated.
By doing this, students take ownership of their own learning and become more engaged and motivated throughout the process. This way, a new role emerges for you as a teacher: a "concierge", an assistant willing to help students reach information and experiences while catering for their needs.
Know you’re not alone
We often sit in a classroom full of students without the assistance of a peer, feeling the weight of responsibility on our shoulders. But having a culture of collegiality in your school or even belonging to teacher communities will reassure you and give you the feeling you are not alone.
Read more: Learning and growing as educators
The same feeling is what students need to feel. They want to be heard and listened to. In this case, you are the one with the power to provide a learning environment that promotes collaboration, experimentation, and exploration for them, without the fear of having their own opinion, in which they face real-life problems and come up with creative solutions.
Working together for projects or assignments, online or offline, will make them more empathetic and will contribute to the emergence of learning communities that support the development of 21st-century skills.
Teachers and students have their own share of responsibility in the educational process. Today we discussed how brave teachers need to be to let go of the controlling instinct and give students the possibility to show who they are, what they know, and how they want to show it. This cannot be achieved until teachers understand the various roles they play in the classrooms.
Next time we’ll explore three more steps in delivering personalized instruction, that revolve around flexibility, interactivity, and authenticity. So stay tuned!