Personalisation – Avoiding Some Big Mistakes
“There is no one right way to teach, but there are definitely some wrong ways. If you avoid the wrong ways, you are well on the way to being a great teacher.” It was excellent advice when I started teaching, and it is just as powerful now as many teachers are making the necessary shift to a more personalised approach to teaching and learning. Let’s look at the top three obvious mistakes to avoid as we move from a whole-class to a personalised teaching approach.
Not changing assessment practices
Summative assessments have an essential role to play in education, but they don’t really help personalise learning; daily formative assessment practices do that. The essence of managing a personalised classroom is being able to ask and answer the question “What is the most appropriate instruction/activity for each student?” The goal is to be able to answer this question on a daily basis, so our assessment practices need to adapt so that we can frequently collect assessment data.
Using tests as the main form of assessment and never using self-assessment
To personalise learning, we need daily assessment data, but clearly the notion of giving students a test every day is silly. In general, if you want to know what the most appropriate instruction or activity is for each student, the easiest way to find that out is to ask them, in other words, self-assessment. What “success” looks like in the subject area needs to be made obvious to students, ideally through a continuum of skill or knowledge to be learned that will culminate in success. Effective self-assessment flips the bulk of the assessment workload from the teacher onto the students. Another point worth making is that if teachers are not using technology to collect and manage this daily self-assessment, it will quickly become overwhelming. personalisation requires technology-enabled assessments.
Introducing personalised learning because it sounds like a good idea
personalising teaching and learning can be powerful, and it is certainly a good idea, but only if your teaching culture and the vision of your school support it. Consider the two statements: I need to know how to teach fractions. I need to know how to teach Hannah. Shifting our focus more to students and less on content is very hard to do, particularly for us secondary teachers, but we have to in order to personalise learning. The reason there is no one right way to teach is because there is no one teaching context or school culture. For some teachers, the decision to personalise learning will be easy because of the general age of the students they teach and the vision of the school they teach in. For others, the decision will be almost impossible for exactly the same reasons. This just scratches the surface of personalised education, and there are many more mistakes to avoid, but avoiding these three will put you on a good path for success. To look deeper into personalising teaching and learning, download the free eBook – Making Personalisation Possible.