Personalised learning (PL) is an educational philosophy that focuses on a student's individual goals, talents, aspirations and learning outcomes. Through a semester unit, our class has completed "Self-Directed Music". Through my reflection process, I found that this semester went through 5 stages that I will share with you here.
Step 1: Develop student understanding of PL.
My students are in years 11 and 12. They have been spoon fed their education for most of their lives and the concept of making them responsible for their learning is just as new to them as it is for us teachers. I found that when introducing this unit, some students loved the opportunity of selecting their own topic area and couldn't wait to get started. Conversely, Other students were not used to exploring an area without being a part of a group or class. Uncharted territory...alone. This is where I knew exactly what my role was this semester. This takes us to step 2.
Step 2: Establishing your role as an educational "personal trainer"
A personal trainer would not bring all clients together in one group and expect them to:
- Have the same goals for their fitness and health
- Complete the same fitness program
- Enjoy doing the same thing as everybody else
Why would we expect such things in education?
The students need someone to guide and coach them to achieve their own learning outcomes. Perhaps not all students know what their learning goals are, but in this case, the teacher collaborates with the student and co-designs this with them; just like a personal trainer's first consultation. From that, the student has a clear personalised learning program. My students wrote up a research proposal that indicated their intended direction for the semester. This was not only to keep me informed of their plan, but to ensure they had made a plan for themselves.
Stage 3: Motivate, Affirm and Develop (MAD)
Motivate: We all need someone to keep us in check and encourage us to keep going. At this stage, it's more of a checking in with the student and asking them to brief you on where they are at, what they have found and a where they are heading to next. It's imperative that we continue to motivate students so they don't get complacent, or think their learning is less significant because nobody else is doing it.
Affirm: Sometimes we just need someone to bounce an idea off, or have someone tell us that our idea is a good one. Don't leave this part out. Some students can really flourish when they are told they are onto something....and to keep going. That is where affirmation can also be a form of motivation.
Develop: There might be occasions where students have explored or analysed something, but haven't quite dissected enough substance from it. Maybe they just need a few stepping stones dropped in front of them so they know where to go next and flesh out their ideas.
Stage 4: Collaboration and Assessment
With a class of students all exploring various topics and musical areas, it would be silly to not have students share their knowledge and findings with others in the class. At this stage, students would give a presentation to the class of their topic and by sharing their ideas and knowledge, this gave significance to their study. They knew that students and even myself as a teacher could take something away from their presentation. It gave the students an opportunity to play on their strengths and exhibit their knowledge to others.
Although the presentations are some form of collaboration, presenting to others isn't necessarily working actively with others. This collaboration took place when students wanted to perform as an ensemble and to do this, they needed to find other students with an overlap in the study to create a performance that demonstrated technical fluency, expression and a piece associated with more than one topic area.
Two students worked together to perform a duet. A French Horn player was studying the development and expressive techniques of the French Horn and another student, an Oboist, was studying Korean Music. Together, they wrote a duet that incorporated the French Horn's stylistic techniques, with the use of major pentatonic scales used predominantly in traditional Korean music. It was great to see all this come together. I found that students with more specific topics came out with more interesting material than students with very broad topics such as "heavy metal".
Stage 5 - Evaluation and Reflection
At the final stage, it makes perfect sense for students, and ourselves of course, to look back and reflect on the unit. This can be done in a variety of ways, one being the PMI model which is a list of Plus, Minus and Interesting. Or perhaps a more creative and collaborative way could be to start an online discussion forum or have students write blogs and comment on them. As you can see, this blog you have just read is my reflection of the process and I hope it can be of some help to you when it comes to Personalised Learning in your class.