Exploring Individualized Learning and Nurturing Student Strengths and Affinities in Education
Contemporary researchers agree that we don’t all learn in the same way but, at the same time, maintain that our interests and preferences have more to do with how we retain new information than an inborn learning style.
For example, suppose a person enjoys the piano and is interested in developing their skills. In that case, there is a higher chance that the person will learn more effectively than others who don’t share the interest. On the other hand, a student’s background and abilities also contribute to achieving better results.
Critics point out that there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that we learn better through a single method and that matching a student’s learning style to the mode of instruction improves outcomes.
In any case, the buzz around learning styles has allowed e-learning course developers to expand their approach to teaching to incorporate more instructional techniques. In the online environment, including visual, aural, or logical elements in course materials and encouraging solitary and group work is much easier.
True or not, the idea that we have different learning styles may not have turned course instruction on its head, but it has raised the issue that more than a few teaching modes should be explored.
This is handy when designing a new e-learning program by bringing diversity and versatility to teaching techniques and creating richer, more memorable learning experiences.
Personalized learning is an educational approach that aims to customize learning for each student’s strengths, needs, skills, and interests. Each student gets a learning plan based on what they know and how they learn best. Personalized learning doesn’t replace an IEP, a 504 plan, or intervention programs.
Ways to Personalize Learning
- Set personal learning plans.
- Encourage self-assessment.
- Conduct frequent formative assessments.
- Use project-based learning.
Students given personalized instruction are more likely to be engaged in their education. The research also shows that personalized learning can help students learn better by providing opportunities for peer feedback and peer support.
Early evidence suggests that personalized learning (PL) can improve achievement for students, regardless of their starting level of achievement. The benefits of PL may take some time to emerge. Analyses suggest that effects may be more positive after schools have experience implementing PL.
Beginning of the course:
1. Get acquainted – Help students get to know other students and personalize their social presence in the course by sharing photos, bios, and interests. This helps lay the foundation of a learning community.
2. Customize learning goals – Create a discussion thread or forum during the first week that requires students to review course goals and outcomes. Find out what the students know and what they want to know once the course is complete.
3. Exam course structure and expectations – Review with your students the course structure, assignments, and expectations for meetings and deadlines to ensure the structure aligns with their needs, expectations, and goals.
Early middle of a course:
4. Differentiate assignments and content resources – Build flexibility into your course content, allowing you to alter specific assignments based on personal learning goals and readiness.
5. Create options for peer interaction – Team assignments and peer review are powerful community-building and assessment tools, but they’re not for everyone. Be flexible on how each is used in your course.
6. Build leadership opportunities – Not all learners must be assessed in identical tasks. Some students may want to lead a seminar or discussion forum; others may prefer to demonstrate their learning by writing a summary or conducting an interview.
Late middle of a course:
7. Customize and personalize projects – Working adults, in particular, will proactively work on projects that have meaning for them in other areas of life, so it’s good to have a project proposal process that cycles between the instructor and the learner for a good learning-interest match.
8. Offer peer review opportunities – Peer review of project proposals, projects-in-process, and finished projects helps build community, extend learning, and reduce grading burdens and unwelcome surprises.
Designing customized learning experiences, like many things in learning, is simple and complex, but it makes a huge difference in satisfaction and effectiveness.
For students to leverage their strengths in school, they must first become self-aware of their strengths by identifying their most dominant intelligence. Moreover, students must also identify their learning styles, interests, and needs.
Additional attributes that influence effective schools include time to learn, teacher quality, and parental trust. … But school effectiveness can also be influenced by the frequency, relevancy, and quality of the teacher professional development offered by the school or school district. Examples of strengths to leverage at work
- Critical thinking.
What strengths do you bring to the classroom and the school?
How to nurture creative mindsets in your classroom
Foster a question-friendly environment
Help students develop the habit of asking “why” questions about information, ideas, and beliefs normally taken for granted.
This classroom scenario is common: a student keeps asking questions, the teacher and classmates get annoyed, and the student gets cut off. Instead of dissuading them from stopping questioning, reward the questioning and promote an environment of openness so more students feel less afraid to speak up.
Encouraging this behavior might require more teaching time but will nurture a childlike sense of wonder as your students learn and grow.
Practice Generating More Ideas
Allocate fixed time towards creativity for students with Genius Hours, as Google does for their employees. Creativity is a muscle that grows stronger and more efficient the more we exercise generating ideas.
The more ideas we come up with, the more original the ideas generated will be. The more ideas we come up with, the greater our chances of producing a work of success.
Encourage new skills
It’s great for students to major in a singular field, whether science, math, or art. To foster new ideas and a unique perspective, however, encourage them to learn various skills and subjects. The more unrelated the field, the better.
For example, future scientists would be wise to take coding, guitar, tennis, and painting lessons. Learning different methods and practicing new skills engages different parts of the brain and inspires the cross-pollination of ideas from one domain to the other.
Highlighting student assets means building on their strengths to support them. Our goal was to focus on student assets by helping them find high-interest books they would want to read while teaching them needed skills.
Education, the most easily measured form of human capital, is an asset, like land and other forms of wealth.
Focuses on strengths – With assets-based learning, this is a priority! As we stated before, learning about your students helps them structure the lesson plan around their strengths. … Making the classroom more culturally responsive allows every student to feel included and welcome.
A teacher who takes an asset-based view of their students must get to know their students. Sometimes, deficits and assets appear in the course of a school day. However, knowing a student’s assets requires knowing who they are, what they like, and what they do.
Nardelli, E. (2019). Do we need computational thinking? Communications of the ACM, 62(2), 32-35.
Liljedahl, M., Boman, L. E., Fält, C. P., & Laksov, K. B. (2015). What students learn: contrasting medical and nursing students’ experiences of the clinical learning environment. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 20(3), 765-779.
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Bringing the Science of Learning to the Classroom
1. Review the quotes from Christensen, Horn, and Johnson noted on page 19: “every student learns in a
different way” and “a key step toward making school intrinsically motivating is to customize an education to
match the way each child learns best” In your experience, does every student learn differently? How practical is it to customize the education of every student?
2. How are strengths and affinities leveraged and nurtured in your classroom, school, or district? What
opportunities do students have to develop their assets?
3. Many other scholars and practitioners are working to bring the “science of learning” to education—
including some who have been noted throughout this book. In what ways have you or your colleagues
begun to incorporate some of their ideas into your practice? How does the approach described by All
Kinds of Minds align with these efforts?
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