The shift in education towards a more ‘personalized’ learning approach has changed the way that both educators and students look at teaching and learning. More and more educators have moved away from the traditional ‘stand and deliver’ approach to direct instruction and have instead opted for more data-driven instructional techniques that take into consideration the varied needs of the learner(s).
This focus on student data has helped educators craft more targeted lessons that not only take into consideration the students’ individual learning styles, interests and needs, but it has also created a culture shift for many schools who now focus on how to best gather and use student data to drive classroom instruction.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with schools across the globe over the last seven years and I have seen this shift towards using data to support personalized learning first-hand. Throughout my hundreds of school/classroom visits, I have seen countless best practices on how student(s’) data can directly support personalized learning and inform good classroom instruction.
I would like to share with you three of the ‘top tips’ for how to use data to create a more personalized learning environment that I have seen in classrooms all across the world.
1. Use Student Data to Focus on the Future
Using student data to create unique instructional scope and sequences is a critical part of a successful personalized learning classroom. Gathering and interpreting data from your students should be done in a way that can help you as an educator not only spot areas that may need additional support, but also help you to inform what may need to be taught to your students next.
As you work to create your learning targets for the day, week and even the month, it is essential to take into consideration what data that you have from your students to inform what may need to be either taught or even re-taught next to ensure skill mastery. Many educators view student data as simply a ‘point in time’ in that students learning continuum, but by connecting those ‘points in time,’ you can start to plot a course for the future and how you want your instruction to guide your students moving forward.
2. Review Data Early and Often
Working to create a personalized learning environment is not like ‘switching on a lightbulb.’ It takes time and it needs to be informed by the students that you have within your classroom. This is why looking at relevant student data on a regular and predictable cadence is absolutely essential. The information that you can glean from formative and summative assessment data can directly affect the way that you orientate your classroom lessons. Reviewing student data is a process that can be made even more effective when working alongside colleagues or other grade-level team members.
Creating a formalized process for reviewing data such as a ‘PLC’ (Professional Learning Community) meeting can help you as a teacher gather other feedback about your students and enrich the quality and quantity of ideas on how to best leverage that data to inform your instructional techniques. Many PLC’s meet to review data on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure that as they gather more data and feedback from students, they can then take that timely and relevant data and turn it into action within the classroom. Setting the expectation to review student data on a regular, predictable basis can have a dramatic effect on not only the way that educators drive instruction, but also the way that students learn within the classroom.
3. Connect Learners with Their Data
Too often I see educators working to pour over student data and make instructional decisions without involving the actual students whose data it is. Connecting students with their data is essential and can help motivate students and keep them engaged in their learning. Taking the time to not only look back at historical data with students, but also work with them to plot a course for where their instruction may go as a result of the data is in part what a personalized learning environment is all about.
Sharing data with students not only involves them even more in the teaching and learning process, but it also gives the students more of a voice in his/her learning and that degree of student agency can have a dramatic effect.
As you continue to cultivate and work towards a more personalized learning environment within your classroom, be sure to find ways to incorporate the use of student data in your teaching processes, as the end result is often a more successful and engaged learner.