The Pathway & Promise of Personalized Learning

Two California schools point the way.

As students, as teachers, as parents, as school administrators - we all know in our gut that we are different people with different abilities and approaches. Yet when it comes to education, this reality often breaks down as we try to get through the curriculum (and sometimes just through the day.)

I struggled mightily as a student in traditional classroom environments that lacked awareness of the many different ways that brains work. Today, technology offers great promise for individualized learning, but many systems keep students on the same rigid path, only varying the pace and not the actual process.

An article in KQED's MindShift points to one pathway to personalize learning. Special education principles hold a key. Both Gateway High School and The New School of San Francisco (both in San Francisco, California) bring together a team of experts and involve parents even before the first day of school in deep learning about the student - what are their strengths, challenges, preferences, goals - just like special education teachers do when they create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with learning differences.

At Gateway, students are also taught about how the brain works, and the diversity that exists in learning and problem solving. Students develop their meta-cognitive skills by strategizing about what approach works best for them, reflecting on how they did, and even learning how to advocate for what they need as learners. Another key element in special education programs that must be a part of personalized learning: the student learns how he/she learns and how to apply that.

This personalized approach is good for teachers too. A first-grade teacher at the New School completed her first round of parent-teacher conferences, usually a very stressful event in the teaching year, saying,

"...I walked away elated, the best I’ve ever felt as a teacher, because I felt like I knew these children so much better than any other child I’ve ever worked with.” 

In fact, these two innovative schools celebrate learning differences as strengths, and build their entire culture and teaching approach around that. They started first with recognition of the promise, even necessity, of personalized learning. This conviction enabled them to see how they could apply very familiar principles like IEPs to create a pathway to something bigger: addressing the "learning differences" of every student. It's a big goal, but it's achievable when we put our minds (and hearts) to it.


Read the whole article at MindShift and tell us what you think about personalized learning. 

About Hayel Saeed

Hayel firmly believes that education is the single best pathway to solving the world’s most overwhelming issues like poverty, human rights and the environment. He gets that when things make life easier, better or faster, they'll be used more and have a bigger impact. As a co-founder, he's motivated to make sure that Mentorina delivers on this premise. 

Hayel applies his training in finance, accounting, and administration to make certain that the day-to-day details of a global operation run smoothly, including client satisfaction, managing budgets and recruiting passionate talent to the team.