When we talk about personalizing a student’s experience in a course, we need to look beyond how they acquire course content and the explicit curriculum. Our role as educators is to help students develop the skills needed to achieve personal success now and in the future; skills such as working effectively with others, self-motivation, organization and time management. We cannot expect each student who enters our classroom to have mastered these skills.
The beauty of a blended learning environment is that there is more space and time available to spend coaching students in these areas. Two examples of how a teacher can guide the development of executive functioning skills follow.The first example involves a teacher in a classroom that has students working through material at their own pace. This teacher needs to identify which students have the skills to self-direct and which students need support. The teacher can then work with the individuals needing support to make a plan outlining which to cover each day both in and out of class. Eventually, this support should transition from the teacher helping the student create the plan to the teacher checking the student’s plan.
Secondly, any teacher - whether the focus is on personalization or otherwise - can instill effective work habits in their students by establishing classroom norms and routines early in the year. In a classroom that has all students working on different tasks, strong classroom management affords the teacher the time and freedom to support individual students.
Students need to be taught a routine to start the class so that they effectively get to work. They need to know that productive conversation is encouraged but that while a teacher is helping others, the student will be held accountable to work effectively and quietly on their own.
Establishing these routines and norms often requires “policing” of students at the beginning of the year – a task that most teachers do not enjoy. However, once the classroom management is in place, the teacher can spend their time supporting both the curriculum and the growth of their students.
The combination of strong classroom management and blended learning materials creates an environment in which the personalization of more than the curriculum can take place. Within this type of classroom, students can both work at their own pace and obtain guidance as they better develop their organization, time-management, perseverance and communication skills.