Professional educators toss around academic terms in cycles. Every twenty or thirty years colleges of education recycle terms and ideas regarding learning and teaching. Personalized learning was introduced as early as 1965, when teachers were encouraged to accommodate students who needed personal attention to keep up with peers in classrooms. Publishers provided print worktexts that students could complete out of classrooms in-order-to “catch up” with classmates (and keep in step with the teacher’s annual lesson plans). The idea was to end each school year with all students performing at the same level of competency.
Today, computers and online instruction have been added to educator’s tool kits for augmenting print curriculum to accommodate personalized learning. The concept has merit; students still need personal attention to make up previous failures or to accelerate learning at their own pace. All children of common age do not fit conveniently into age/grade learning brackets. For example, half a dozen 14-year-old students usually vary in height, weight, initiative, talents, interests, and intelligence. To force students to sit in common-age classrooms according to grade level frustrates both the teaching and learning processes. Some students grasp concepts quickly. Others simply do not “get it.” That is why educators developed the Bell Curve grading system…to try to be fair to all students so they can “pass” as a group to the next grade level.
The big weakness of the one-size-fits-all classroom educational system is that focus is on teaching rather than on student learning. Age-group classification is practiced because it provides administrative convenience for schools: students can be managed and processed more easily according to ages and grades than by independent/individualized/personalized learning. To focus on learning rather than on teaching would require schools to reorganize the way institutions operate. Fortunately, some schools do just that. They prescribe curriculum according to students’ learning competencies rather than according to their ages, and allow students to advance in academics according to personal initiative, talents, interests, and competencies.
That is what personalized learning does. Some curriculum publishers have begun to accommodate personalized learning by producing print and digital curriculum that can be completed anywhere, anytime: in or out of classrooms. For example, Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum is specifically designed for personalized learning. Each print course is packaged in convenient kits that include texts, activities, section quizzes, chapter tests, and answers (TRK). Paradigm courses are also available in digital downloads for laptops and smartphones.
The result is that multitudes of students are enjoying “school.” In fact, home school and alternative schools are experiencing amazing growth as millions of students discover that they were actually “held back” in learning while enrolled in classrooms based on age. Such students are enjoying the fruits of personalized learning.