Personalizing Learning: Collaboration & Creativity
Two common misconceptions about personalized learning are that it requires technology and that it must involve significantly more independent work. We know instinctively that a room full of students working silently on computers is not necessarily personalized, even though there are powerful digital tools and programs that can make personalized learning simpler. And yet, an adaptive program still requires a teacher to facilitate learning that empowers students and builds their ownership of learning.
Personalizing learning is a student-centered approach that calls on educators (not computers) to be responsive to the needs of their students, making sure they get the instruction they need, when they need it.
Indeed collaboration and creativity are essential elements when personalizing learning, because they require students to work with one another, share ideas, create new solutions and projects, provide one another with feedback, and, in the process, learn more about themselves.
A research study of top U.S. companies shared the skills students need in a post-pandemic world, and every single one named self-awareness and collaboration, comfort with ambiguity, or strategic and agile thinking to solve complex problems as what they will want and expect from today’s K-12 students when they eventually hire them.
Classrooms that encourage collaboration and inspire creativity:
- Include space for students to learn more about each other and the communities in which they live.
- Challenge students to think critically, problem-solve, and design solutions for problems relevant to student’s lives, both big and small.
- Celebrate collective success and highlight the value of taking risks and learning from mistakes.
- Recognize the power in the process of learning, even over getting the answer to a question right.
Beyond thinking about setting up students for positive relationships with each other, educators can consider how they intentionally collaborate with families and the local community to deepen their own understanding of their classrooms. Honoring home languages, pronouncing students’ names correctly, and leveraging community partnerships to increase relevance of classroom experiences are just a few ways collaboration might show up.
When thinking about ways to improve how students work together or the learning experiences that matter most to them, start with this simple step before doing anything else; ask them. We recommend polling students in a class or convening a small group to ask them questions about how they like working together and what their interests are before making a plan. Including students in the process will help them feel included and valued while also providing a model of what happens when collaboration and creativity drive a process that honors the whole child.
The more students talk about ideas with one another, the more likely they are to develop new ideas that spark creativity. Creativity is essential when building a student’s ownership of their learning. In fact, ownership manifests in those new, creative ideas that come from a student, and collaboration is one of the best ways to start this process.