Personalization: How A Change in Classroom Delivery Can Change the Outcome
School was never hard for me, it just wasn’t engaging enough for us millennials. It felt prehistoric and bland, so I often doodled and wrote poetry. I was an average student until sports became my incentive to achieve academically. This wasn’t due to lack of knowledge, but moreso a lack of interest. However, things changed once I got to college. College was the first time I was in charge of my educational path. It was a time I felt connected to school and empowered as a learner.
I remember the excitement I felt when selecting classes that fit my interests and the feeling of knowing that academic success meant more than the same repetitive cycle and delivery. This feeling was familiar; the same one I felt as a 5th grade student in Mr. Navies’ class.
I was suddenly in a learning environment designed for me. A place where I could thrive academically and was encouraged to collaborate with my peers. Learning became less of a job and more of an experience. I began to appreciate the time in Mr. Navies’ class even more because it reminded me of what school should feel like. An environment designed for students to excel versus being held back and limited. Mr. Navies impacted my life for the better simply by changing the way I received and perceived information while delivering it to me in a personalized way.
Don’t get me wrong – there were some teachers along the way who made learning purposeful, and I also had a mother who made sure I engaged in learning outside the institution of school. But Mr. Navies redefined to me what it meant to be a learner by encouraging me to think outside the box in order to demonstrate my knowledge. He reassured me that education was not the sum total of test scores or grades; he allowed us to contribute to the class and empowered us to create our own assignments.
Mr. Navies grouped us in smaller rotations rather than having us sit in rows. This allowed us to work with each of our classmates at some point during the year. Mr. Navies’ class was a breath of fresh academic air that felt unique, and so right. Knowing my love for music, Mr. Navies even let me do projects through songs and poetry. These were simple things that made the educational process more fulfilling and helped us prepare for the future.
Outside of Mr. Navies' class, I recall sitting in overcrowded classrooms with a lack of materials, being compared to my peers rather than my progress, taking the same high stakes test year after year (without ever knowing how I did or what it meant), and feeling like I was only there to regurgitate information that didn’t fit me, but instead an outdated system. In other words, it felt like “Operation: Waste of Time.” Grade school felt more intimidating than nurturing. Teachers encouraged us to follow predetermined rules and to only be creative when the assignment said to do so.
In college, I had ownership over personal work, strategic group work, options, mostly smaller classes, and accountability over their success. Mr. Navies tried to mirror that in a way that was age appropriate, and his class was a great example of personalized learning in action, which has had an everlasting effect on me. Imagine if every student was engaged in this way. It would allow students to excel while being comfortable at their own pace. Learning is a process and that process should reflect the best interests of the learner.
Personalized Learning takes the intimidation away and makes learning fun and engaging. No student should feel like school is a place for them to fail; we must, as a community, empower students to become powerful while maximizing their potential.