Professional Development

Personalized Learning: A Look at How Teachers Are Handling the Approach

By Liana Loewus — November 22, 2017 1 min read

As personalized learning—aimed at customizing the school experience for individual students, often by using technology—continues to gain steam in schools, it’s worth stopping periodically to reflect: How well is this working? And is it really what’s best for teachers and students?

A recent Education Week report does just that—and finds that while the research base behind the approach overall is still weak, there are some promising practices going on in schools.

One of the greatest challenges in getting going with personalized learning is preparing teachers for it. The report highlights an elementary school in Chicago that has an intensive, six-month professional development program to help teachers with implementation. Even with that, the case study shows, teachers have struggled with the adjustment. The principal has been giving teachers more opportunities to collaborate and share data and has brought in extra instructional coaches.

Teachers also struggle with how time-consuming it is to personalize lessons for every student, according to an interview with researchers who’ve studied the instructional model closely. And many teachers lack the curricular resources to do this as well. Plus, teachers say they struggle with competing priorities. For instance, how can they encourage students to collaborate when they’re all working on different things?

But when you ask students, the report also shows, many say they prefer moving along through lessons at their own pace to sitting in a traditional teacher-led classroom. “You learn to work through your problems,” 7th grader Jade Huynn told me. And it’s great “feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the week when you’ve finished all your assignments.”

If you’ve got some time this holiday weekend, the full report is certainly worth a read.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.