Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
What is Personal Learning?
"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." I believe Albert Einstein said this, but it's been debated. This quote has also been criticized for a few reasons, one being that by calling everyone a genius, especially children, that they may believe they don't have to work hard in life. I don't really see it that way.
What it means to me is that not all children are the same and shouldn't be treated as such. Every student walks into your classroom each day with a unique set of challenges, energy levels, reading and writing abilities, personal traumas, learning styles, etc. Ignoring this, in my opinion, is dangerous, putting learners at risk of checking out due to apathy, boredom, confusion, frustration, and loss of a love for learning.
Personal learning is the facilitation of learning experiences that are designed around the unique interests, backgrounds, skill levels, goals, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and so on of EACH student. The teacher/facilitator builds a relationship with every learner and enhances learning by creating an environment that reflects and celebrates the uniqueness of every child. Yes, this includes high school students.
So how do you make learning personal for 30 middle or high schoolers? The same way you would make learning personal for 1 student. By building relationships with your students. That's easy for homeschoolers. But in addition to the relationship-building piece, I recommend moving toward a student-directed, teacher-facilitated model. Here's how.
How to Personalize Learning in a High School Setting
1) Build Meaningful Relationships With Your Students:
2) Organize Learning Experiences That Are Personal In Nature:
Make learning personal by organizing and facilitating learning activities that give students voice and choice; student-directed learning in other words. Student-directed project-based-learning is a wonderful tool for making learning personal because students design their own experiences.
I love project-based learning, and would start with that if you are trying to personalize your high school curriculum. But it is not the only way. You can make any learning experience personalized as long as students are given some autonomy and that the experience is designed with the child in mind.
Try some of these learning activities. You do not need the resources. The resources are intended to help guide beginners and save those that are not beginners time, which is hot commodity!
3. Personalize Assessments and Evaluations
Yep, you read that correctly. Testing is not personalized. That is not to say you should never give a test to check for understanding, but if you're going to personalize learning experiences, you should personalize evaluations as well. It just makes sense.
Transitioning from a didactic pedagogy to student-led personal learning wouldn't be an easy transition. Change is hard. But by cutting down on lecture and lesson planning, you free up time to build relationships with students, create learning plans, and facilitate learning activities that best suit the interests, needs, and goals of each child.
Thanks for stopping by. If you ever decide to make learning personal in your classroom through student-directed learning, I'd love to hear from you. How did it go? What have been some challenges? What has gone well?
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To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.