Everything around us is customizable and we love it. This is the era of customization and due to our technology and the variety of options. We can customize everything from the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the television shows and books that pop up on our recommended list, and the podcasts we listen to. The world is quickly becoming divergent in new and interesting ways, splintering off into narrow interests groups, each with their own specialized skill set and interests.

It is important that this kind of individualization is reflected in our education systems as well. Success in the future is going to be based on how well individuals can innovate and differentiate themselves from the crowd. We are moving into a time when an individual’s unique interests and abilities are more important than ever and we have more tools to customize the delivery of content than we have ever had in the past, so shouldn’t our classrooms reflect that reality?

Education started out small, around 3500 B.C. Back then children were learning how to write in ancient languages, and due to the effort of those venerable teachers, we now have proofs of our history, scattered all around the globe.

The Middle Ages brought together education and religion, and many children went to church in order to study.  Slowly but certainly, science started to infiltrate into what became an educational system.

The 20th century started a form of education reform that continues through this day.

All along history, education was viewed mostly like a uniform way of teaching, where all students had to learn the same subject, using the same tools and they had to demonstrate their knowledge the same way. This method was efficient because it created a form of discipline and children had to stick to the rules.

However, the deficiency of this mass learning system is that some children are left behind, while others never reach their true potential.

Some other disadvantages of using only a uniform way of teaching are:

  • Same pace for everyone;
  • Not taking under consideration individual preferences;
  • Not looking out for children’s hidden talents;
  • Not helping children through difficulties;
  • Not encouraging children to improve something they are really good at.

The list could go on and on, but the conclusion would be the same. Times have changed and humanity evolved with technology. There is much more knowledge to be learned and teaching methods should be adapted so that children reach their full potential.

Certainly, there are issues that you had as a child, in school. If you look back and think about them, you will notice that many of these were related to the fact that you had to fit in and learn in a specific way that was forced upon you, and didn’t reflect your true capabilities.

We are aiming to change this and to offer better education to the next generation, the kind of education that children will love and they will want more of.

Custom – Made Education, the future of learning

Let’s take a look at what custom made education really is, and how personalized learning can benefit your child.

Teachers who learn from their students

Teaching is a two way process. The teacher must teach the student, but in order to teach, they need to learn what makes them tick. Teachers, who are dedicated to learning how to push the right buttons, how to connect, and how to metaphorically speak the student’s language, are the fundament of good learning.

The tools that teachers use to learn about the student are called formative assessment and summative assessment.

Formative assessment refers to how a teacher observes the student. Teachers ask students, directly or indirectly, to provide feedback that will help them improve their teaching methods. It also helps students to evaluate their own progress and to express their needs.

Summative assessments tend to be more “old school” and they translate in papers, projects exams and other evaluation tools.

Committed teachers use formative assessment more often because summative assessment is known to induce stress.

A child who receives a teacher’s full attention, and who is gently guided, will become a child who knows how to study alone and who will enjoy learning. As a grown up, this becomes a life skill that will help them evolve in the work place and constantly better themselves.

Personality and Temperament

We each have our own unique personality that influences the way we interact with people, the way we view ourselves and the way we think. Some students are introverts and some are extroverts. Some students like dealing with the abstract and esoteric while others are drawn to the concrete and practical side of the world.

There are many studies that focus on how students perform different task, according to their personality. The results show that each group has an affinity. For example, one study compared listening in a foreign language to reading in the same language. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Introverts are much better listeners than extroverts.

This information is useful to the teacher because they will adapt their teaching style to fit the student. For example, introverts might prefer to study alone, not in a group. They will be offered the choice to join a team, but it is ok if they refuse.

It takes every kind of personality to make the world work. Customized education honors a student’s unique set of personality traits to help them gain insight into their own mind.

Interests

Let’s face it: there isn’t enough time to learn everything. In the time that you have spent reading this blog post, hundreds of thousands of words have been written with new ideas, and new discoveries are shared every single day. We should all get a well-rounded education, but we should also make space for our real interests and passions because we will never be experts in everything.

The division of labor appeared many, many years ago, in Mesopotamia, and it has grown and developed for our modern society. Today, people become specialized and even overspecialized in very narrow fields. This increases productivity and efficiency.

Why should it be any different in school?

We all need basic knowledge, but not hours of in depth study about something we completely dislike. Children who learn more of what they like and who develop projects in their area of interest, are prone to enjoy learning. By loving to learn they will continue to love school when they leave for Higher Education Institutes and this will give them the upper hand.

Teachers, who practice personalized learning techniques, use special strategies to determine the student’s interest.  They may:

  • Come forward about what they expect students to learn before they even start teaching;
  • Ask for the student’s opinion about their teaching techniques;
  • Ask children what part of certain subject they dislike and what would they rather learn instead;

Of course, there are subjects that can’t be skipped, but knowing children’s opinion and learning their interests, can help a teacher adjust their teaching methods.

  • Customized education helps students figure out what they are most passionate about and gives them avenues to explore those passions and interests with support.

Learning Style

Students are individuals who develop their own learning techniques and it’s important for teachers to be aware of this and to work with the student. This is why it’s important to have classes that don’t have too many children. The smaller the group, the better the teacher will be able to focus on adapting their teaching methods to the student’s learning style.

There are four learning styles that have been differentiated. These are:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Reading/writing

The styles might be pretty much self explanatory, but noticing them in a student takes time and devotion.

There are many other learning styles models, for example, Felder-Soloman, which offers online self-assessment means of determining one’s learning style.

Handling students with different learning styles requires practiced methods and ongoing research, as new methods develop every day.

Students have their own original way of learning. Some students like to be left alone with a problem so that they have time to quietly and contemplatively consider all of the options before making a plan. Others work best in a group, bouncing ideas off of other students in order to come to a collective solution. Some students like to have tangible documents in their hands to help them have a sense of connection to the material. Others prefer listening to content delivered through audio as a way to remember it better. A customized education takes these preferences into account and helps students discover what ways work best for them.

Learning pace

Many students have been led to believe that they are not as academically capable as others, just because they have not been able to keep up with the typical class pace. Other students have grown bored because the average class pace is too slow for them or doesn’t challenge their curiosity.

Learning pace is not an indicative of the learning ability. Instead, the pace is an individualized trait that can be adjusted to give every student the chance to work at a speed that works best.

Self-pacing was shown to be useful, and the students who were allowed to learn at their own rhythm, showed better memorizing capabilities. However, this happened only when this strategy was guided. This is why a good teacher knows how to sometimes give students all the time they want, but also knows where and when to set the limit.

Customized education is aimed at allowing students to move through a subject naturally. If a child masters a subject and he has exhausted all the concepts that derive from it, they will be allowed to skip the homework or projects related to it. For subjects that they need extra time for, they will be allowed to move slowly without being judged.

Some children are very good at a particular theme, but they still want to explore it further. That is their process. That is what they need to do in order to move on. That is their learning pace and high quality education must respect that.

Personalized learning is a relatively new approach that has the potential to reshape our educational system. Studies are emerging and are pointing out the benefits that come along with offering a child their own space and using the right timing.

Having a personalized curriculum and offering a student all the attention they need in order to reach their full potential is close to impossible in traditional schools. Of course, there are exceptions, but these don’t usually refer to all the students, but only to a few chosen ones.

Enrolling a child to a school that practices personalized learning and that customizes their curriculum, can have a series of benefits that will stick with your child for life.

Better mental health

Children will not feel forced to learn. They will know that it’s in their best interest to gain knowledge but they know that the teacher is there to help them, not to force them.

A feeling of belonging

Due to the fact that personalized learning takes under consideration the personality of each child, students build relationships with teachers. Usually, classes have a smaller number of students, and they will form a long lasting team.

Learning to learn

Teachers will point out their observations and will help the student harvest his strengths. This will develop the child’s ability to self analyze and to become more efficient in gaining knowledge in a manner that they control.

A custom-made education is one that starts where each individual is and takes that student where they want to go. Customized education requires a real, meaningful relationship between teacher and student, one where the goals and paths to reach them are in respectful negotiation from the very beginning

At The Tenney School, we believe that custom-made education should be the norm. Every student deserves the chance to walk the educational path that’s built just for them!

References

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11251-016-9371-3

https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/basics/formative-summative.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690881/#B24

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1365.html