As schools turn the page this school year and plan for fall, personalization for each child will be key.
Estimates of unfinished student learning vary, but most suggest that for many students, there is a long way to go.
A study of reading performance in Ohio suggests a drop in student achievement equal to about one-third of a year of learning for all students and half a year for black students. According to Curriculum Associates, an educational technology company that provides benchmark assessment to schools, there are more students in Grades 1 through 8 this year who are two or more behind in math than in previous years, with a disproportionate impact on schools serving predominantly black and Latino populations.
These academic measures say nothing about the mental health issues that affect many students, which will make learning difficult. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children aged 5 to 11 who have visited the emergency department due to a mental health crisis has increased by 24% compared to the same period in 2019. For 12 to 17 year olds. older children, that number has increased by 31 percent.
But these headlines mask the wide variation that teachers will face when they return to the classroom. Different students will have different gaps and challenges. Some have even ramped up their learning during the pandemic and will opt out if their teacher tries to review material they already have mastered.
The one-size-fits-all approach that dominates so many classrooms across the country and already failed so many American students will be all the worse for students in the fall. The assumption that all students should learn the same lesson at the same time is wrong.
Each child will need an individualized learning plan.
Schools are no strangers to this concept. IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) were first introduced in schools in 1975 for children with special needs.
But an individualized learning plan does not need to be weighed down by the bureaucratic and legal wrangles that surround IEPs.
Instead, when students return to school, teachers should have one-on-one conversations with each child to take stock of their performance and what they need to be successful. They can also use small ratings to gain more in-depth information.
They then need to create a learning environment to create a personalized roadmap for each child in which each child will work at their own pace and on their own path. Instead of leading whole class lessons, teachers should spend time in small group lessons with children or accompany and mentor them.
Educational technology that has become nearly ubiquitous during the pandemic may make this possible by allowing students to learn through online school programs while in school so they can progress at different rates and pathways. This means schools won’t have to spend a lot of money or time replicating the physical environment of places that already do a good job of customizing, like Montessori environments.
Personalizing in this way was a good idea even before the pandemic, as it has always been true that students have different learning needs at different times.
According to Digital Promise Global’s Learner Variability Project, all individuals have a range of cognitive, social, and emotional skills, as well as health and psychological well-being, which they bring to the classroom, which requires adoption. different approaches to optimize the learning of any individual.
In simpler terms, students have different levels of basic knowledge depending on what they have learned previously and what they have been exposed to outside of the classroom. They have different abilities to absorb new information into what cognitive scientists call working memory.
As a result, we learn at different rates, which vary according to subject or context.
The results of tutoring show the wisdom of personalizing learning. Benjamin Bloom’s famous “two sigma” research showed that 50th percentile students could progress two standard deviations – all the way to the 95th percentile – through tutoring. This research has been revised to show much weaker, but still impactful results from tutoring.
More recently, a new study of two experimental trials in Chicago further showed the power of tutoring, as the authors found that grade 9 and 10 students saw huge improvements with “course failures reduced down to 49. % “.
What was interesting was that the tutors were not great experts. One of the researchers hypothesized that the success happened because the tutors worked with only two students, so they could personalize the learning much more than a traditional teacher.
It is now essential to learn from cognitive science research and integrate them into all schools, given the gaps that students have experienced in the last two school years.
Ensuring that each child has an individualized learning plan tailored to their needs should be a table issue.