We are living in an era of customization. Because of our technology and 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?
When we talk about custom-made education, though, what do we mean? What does it look like in practice? Here are the some of the specific factors that a teacher at The Tenney School considers when creating a customized education plan for a student.
- Learning Style– Students learn best in different ways. 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.
- Personality– We each have our own unique personality factors. Some students are introverted and some are extroverted. Some students like dealing with the abstract and esoteric while others are drawn to the concrete and direct elements of the world. 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 reach their full potential.
- 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 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. 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 pace- Many students have been led to believe that they are not as academically capable just because they have not been able to keep up with the typical class pace. Other students have grown bored because the typical class pace is too slow for them. Learning pace is not indicative of 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. Customized education allows students to move through a subject more quickly when they have mastered the material and are ready to move on or more slowly if they need extra time to grasp a concept or simply want to explore what they have learned in more depth.
A custom-made education is one that starts where each individual is and takes that student where s/he wants 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!