To the Editor:
Education Week‘s special report, (“Personalized Learning: 4 Big Questions Shaping the Movement,” November 7, 2018) noted personalized learning’s phenomenal growth but also outlined the difficulties schools experience when implementing this practice.
We must recognize the natural conflict between traditional education and personalized learning. Traditional education represents what America’s K-12 curriculum should cover—decisions made at the state level, such as the Common Core State Standards, where students compete by grades and tests to meet these standards. How well students perform guides their future education or work track.
Personalized learning is designed or tailored to meet the individual student’s needs, which can conflict with how traditional education puts students in direct competition with each other. This competition takes a toll on students. It also takes a toll on teachers who entered the profession seeking a bond with students. This is likely a major reason for the surge in personalized learning’s popularity.
Both learning concepts have great value. Personalized learning reinforces democracy, where every individual has dignity and worth, and it improves students’ trust and confidence. While traditional education prepares students for college, work, and adulthood.
Why not work out a way to blend these two philosophies?
If we did, I believe the following could happen: Elementary schools could focus on personalized learning. Middle schools could start to blend personalized learning with traditional education. High schools could focus on traditional education—having students actively engaged in their own education would be beneficial to all.
Prioritizing personalized learning in our elementary schools would empower parents and families. It would also encourage parents to partner with elementary school teachers. This would usher in a new importance to middle schools, and a new maturity to high schools.
If successful, this movement would encourage a new community spirit and strengthen our democracy.
Joseph W. Gauld
A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2019 edition of Education Week as Let’s Rethink Schooling