Lighten the load

Using personalised learning resources

Gavin McLean argues that when personalised learning is supported by the right kind of resources, the burden placed on educators in the 21st Century can be lightened, learning enhanced and a sense of balance restored.

The idealism of teaching

As a career filled with challenges, teaching has long been an altruistic or idealistic pursuit. It still is: despite dwindling resources and increased time constraints, teachers continue to strive to improve performance, increase student engagement, and provide a more personalised learning experience. The effort involved can impact teacher recruitment and retention, but for those who enjoy teaching as a lifelong passion, creating the very best learning experiences for their students remains at the top of their agenda, and these days they need all the help they can get.

Personal or individual learning?

Personalised learning has quickly become something of a gold standard in pedagogy. At its best it not only allows, but encourages students to learn in a way that suits their unique preferences and abilities for digesting and building upon their classroom experience.

Traditional, individualised learning uses student performance as a primary indicator of strengths and weaknesses in a topic or subject matter, while personalised learning looks at strengths and weaknesses as a combination of learning style preference and performance.

 

Supporting personalised learning

The work required to plan effectively for this kind of learning can be very demanding on time.  However, with access to the right kind of personalised learning resources, educators can be supported in three key ways by:

  1. Simplifying the teaching process
  2. Reducing the role of administrative work, and
  3. Helping track student progress

Resources to support personalised learning are not new, but they are gaining in popularity as they can be easily adapted to each student’s needs and abilities, while giving teachers time to refocus on what really matters – their pupils. This is especially true of “technology enhanced” personalised learning resources which can improve teaching efficiency by facilitating independent student learning, building parental engagement, and providing instantaneous feedback loops. Using this kind of resoursce therefore empowers teachers to provide more personalised tuition quickly and relatively easily.

Adaptive learning

These resources can now automate the process of tracking progress while identifying strengths and weaknesses. They then compile appropriate learning experiences for individual learners, or smaller student groups, adapting and responding to the needs of each student as they complete tasks and moving them on when a skill or concept has been mastered. Automating this process is also important for teachers, as it can create the kind of time needed to stretch gifted students or address the concerns of those that may be struggling.

Long term planning

When using good personalised learning resources, teachers can plan ahead and construct the curriculum’s narrative, while short-term lesson plans and activities are determined by the resources themselves. Additionally, understanding that holistic pedagogy embraces both online and offline methods, some integrated personalised learning resources combine printable resources with engaging, online activities that encourage learning both inside and outside the classroom. Planning is therefore re-framed as a proactive mindset rather than an endless box-checking task for teachers.

 

Designing assessment

Finally, good personalised learning resources can radically reduce the time spent on designing and administering effective personalised assessment, creating instantaneous feedback loops and at-home support. This approach to assessment is therefore a game-changer in reducing teacher work load by offering automated marking and assessment tools which not only improve the quality of assessment, but also transform turn-around time and feedback.

Restoring the balance

Personalised learning resources therefore create a more efficient teaching environment and support teacher well-being while improving the learning experience for educators and students alike. At a time when more emphasis is being placed on student and teacher performance, it is unrealistic to expect any short-term gains to be sustained if the people who form the backbone of schools are burning out and leaving the profession. Reinterpreting personalised learning resources as a way to empower teachers, as well as a means to unlock a student’s full potential, can help restore and revive teaching as a profession that pursues realistic goals in the time-honoured, altruistic way.

 

Gavin McLean is the international business development manager of Edmentum International, who are based in the UK and have developed a range of different personalised learning resources.

 

Theory into practice: using a personalised learning resource (“EducationCity”) in a UK Primary School:

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