Personalized learning…good or bad?

While I think there are many benefits to the idea of personalized learning, there are some very serious drawbacks.   My school is trying to seriously implement personalized learning this year in multiple ways, and not all of them are successful.    In the classroom, personalized learning at my school takes a myriad of forms.   In some classrooms it simply means that students have alternative seating available and flexibility with their assignments.   In other classes, the assignments themselves are adapted to student need based on standardized test scores.   Students have a wide variety of options in most classes.   However, in classes that are a little less varied, such as math, the students are expecting to be given more choices now.   This leads to less engagement in the material, and a little more defiance and disruptive behavior.   Additionally, in classes where students have alternative seating options, they frequently hide themselves away in a corner and play games on their Chromebooks rather than work on their assignments.   The success of personalized learning in the classroom, as I have observed, depends quite heavily on the “withitness” of the teacher in that classroom.

Beyond the regular classroom time, they have created a new advisory class called “Synergy” where the students, in theory, come up with some long-term project they are really interested in pursuing.   The idea of Synergy is a really awesome one, however in practice it isn’t so great.   The students don’t really have a clear idea of what they are expected to be doing.   Instead of thinking of projects which will stretch their minds and creativity, most of them went for the “low hanging fruit” with no clear plan of how they wanted to proceed.   It’s like an overdone middle school science fair where none of the kids have any idea what to do, and they all think they can finish it “the night before.”

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