Myth: Personalized Learning means students do whatever they want
Sometimes when people hear that personalized learning is "all about the student," they get the impression that students can do whatever they want, or that teachers are merely observers or logistical coordinators.
This is understandable, but not accurate. Teachers are still the leaders of the instructional process, but they encourage the input of learners and try to incorporate learner interests to provide motivation. Teachers pre-assess what students already know and can do, so that students don't waste time on things they already know. Teachers use assessments that measure the depth of understanding so that they know not only what students know, but how deeply they understand it. Teachers use this information to design learning so that all students are growing and learning regardless of where they start.
In a personalized learning environment, student perspectives are invited and respected. What the students prefer may not always prevail, but they are authentically considered and when possible, are implemented. Students choose from:
- multiple "starting points" depending on what they already know,
- multiple methods of accessing and processing information,
- multiple ways to engage with content and concepts, using strategies that encourage ownership of their learning,
- multiple ways to express (or demonstrate) their knowledge and understanding.
While it is true that personalized learning can be described as "giving students voice and choice in their learning," this doesn't mean the students have absolute choice. The Institute @ CESA #1 gives the following description of how learner choice is considered.
Whenever practical, learners are given options regarding the ways in which they will engage in learning. It may be the approach to completing a task, how learning will be displayed or with whom learners will work, but choices are a part of the environment. The focus remains on clear, vigorous standards, but the paths learners will take to meeting these standards include learners as co-designers.
As you can see, there are still standards that learners are expected to achieve, but instead of being told exactly how to get there, learners have some choice in how to learn, how to engage with what they are learning, and how to demonstrate what they know.