Two things teachers are constantly striving to increase are learning and retention. True learning takes place when learners are actively engaged with the material and retention occurs when learners are able to make connections between the material and their personal lives.
So it should come as no surprise that student personalization is critical in order to increase learning and retention among students whether in the classroom or during virtual learning.
Think of a topic that was incredibly fascinating to you when you were still in school. It might have been animals, sports, or a great dystopian novel. Whatever the case may be, you couldn’t keep your mind off it, you wanted to read more about it, and you loved reciting all the facts you learned to everyone around you. You were constantly making connections between that topic and how it affected your daily life.
Now think back to a subject that bored you to tears. Your teachers attempted to reach you, but your mind wandered, you had zero interest in talking about it, and you forgot everything the teacher said as soon as you left the classroom.
You were invested in the first topic, but you weren’t invested in the second. Student engagement was second nature for you one day, but it was impossible for the teacher to get you involved the next. And you knew why the first topic was important, but the second topic seemed like a complete waste of your time.
Personalized learning means teaching new information to students in a way that takes their own skills, abilities, needs, and interests into account. Teachers use what they know about each student as an individual to draw them in, get them learning, and help them make those connections to their own lives. Personalized learning leads to drastically higher amounts of both student engagement and retention of new information because it allows students to practice new skills in a way that matters to them.
For example, if a teacher wanted to plan a lesson on percentages, he or she could allow students to choose how they wanted to practice calculating those percentages. Some students could design a project where they calculated the price of sales items at their favorite store while others calculate the percentage of players on a baseball team that had certain characteristics. What matters is what they do, not how they do it. The teacher is strategically using personalized learning opportunities to increase student engagement, learning, and retention of the material.
And personalized learning opportunities are even easier to create during virtual learning sessions than in a brick-and-mortar classroom. In a virtual classroom, the teacher can address the whole group for mini-lessons, set up break-out sessions for small group discussions, and then assign unique project-based tasks to each student based on their personal interests and input.
Personalized learning plans work. Student engagement goes up when all learners have a say in what and how they learn. And when student engagement goes up, real learning takes place, and the level of retention increases too.