One challenge with personalized learning is that it requires educators to create multiple pathways to success and to find different types of resources like videos, texts and hands-on activities to offer their students.
“It falls on the instructor to be a coach and a guide, giving students a jumping off point,” Becker says.
Technology’s role in this process is twofold. First, it often provides important learning data that helps teachers to make adjustments in their pedagogy. Second, it provides the vehicle for differentiating instruction. For example, a child with a tablet has the option of watching a video lesson or reading an article on the same topic.
“At the end of the day, the role that technology can and should play in all of this is to really build understanding, connection and coherence,” Bedford says.
Technology helps to fill in the gaps. It gives students the freedom and autonomy to engage in the types of educational activities that most appeal to them and that best suit their learning style. It also gives teachers a glimpse into students learning psyche by providing data that reveals how students learn and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Another challenge that arises with personalized learning is assessment. It’s nearly impossible to create a systematic way of assessing student projects when everyone turns in something different. How do you compare a video skit to a research paper? What would the grading rubric look like? Would there be one at all?
“If everyone is choosing different pathways and then being creative about how they demonstrate what they’ve learned, that means there is going to be an array of assignments generated by students,” Becker says. “How do you assess creativity? It’s difficult to scale the valuations to that degree with the current scoring and credentialing systems we have now.”
As schools continue to move towards personalized learning environments, they’ll need to rethink how student work is evaluated and how best to structure assessments. For now, there’s no real answer to this question. Personalized learning is still too new and not yet widespread enough to warrant restructuring the current assessment systems, but it could happen in the very near future and schools should be prepared to face this challenge head on.