The Importance of Process in Personalized Learning


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to personalize the learning experience for our students. I think of personalized learning as a large umbrella with many ways to achieve it. One that comes up a lot is project-based learning.

I see frequent formative assessments as a requirement for personalized learning. Teachers and students must have a way to gauge student growth and need. Frequent formative assessments–including observation of student performance–are key to gauging growth and determining need. Projects produced by students are an easy way for teachers to do non-traditional formative assessment as well.

I’ve read the Metiri Group paper on Student Engagement and was alarmed by the description of process in engagement. I was reluctant to yield importance to process, because I’m a big proponent of multiple means to achieve an end. I was concerned that measuring process would inhibit development of different processes.

Then at the School CIO Summit on June 27th, I think I got the point. Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) from the Science Leadership Academy was talking about his school’s emphasis on inquiry-based learning. He was explaining the power of failure as a learning experience, and it struck me that by measuring process we were talking about the process of the learning experience.

Of course it would be wrong to measure the quality of the end product alone because our best learning experiences occur when our end product doesn’t meet our expectations. I have never doubted the statement, but I hadn’t considered how it would actually look in the classroom.

I’ve heard some people express skepticism about personalized learning as an umbrella for other types of learning such as project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, etc. I think I see the point of the skepticism if you don’t believe that there’s a place in all of these types of learning to measure the process. I think every learner is different, and I want to give each one the broadest choices for learning and showing what they’ve learned. The challenge is probably measuring the process given different student choices. I believe the pay off will be worth the effort to do so.

Thanks to the School CIO Summit (#tltechlive) for putting together a great panel to really make me think about this issue. I can’t wait to see what our teachers will do in 2015-16 because I know it’s going to be good.