At some or other point during their child’s education, most parents will experience the frustration of feeling that their child is just a ‘face in the crowd’ at school; whether it’s because they are being left behind while the class moves on, because they are alone out front and losing interest, or because their strengths and interests simply do not align with the ‘expected norms’.
Conventional classroom learning has educators ‘teaching to the middle’ and they are simply, practically not able to round up all the children on the same page every time. Individualised learning is the antidote to this, but it’s not easy, arguably impossible, for a teacher to facilitate 20, 30 or more learning paths in a single classroom environment.
Many families are already accessing online educational platforms, tools and apps that are helping their kids by providing individualised learning that helps them master subjects such as Maths and languages or make up for any learning deficits they may have acquired. Online learning offers many benefits when it comes to individualised learning from being able to proceed at the child’s own pace to offering a range of learning modes that cater to different learning styles.
It is these advantages in the online space that Mark Anderson, Principal of Koa Academy is harnessing to enable every child in the school to follow a unique learning path. He says, “One of the biggest constraints in a traditional physical school is that the teacher is the central focus of the classroom, the holder of all content knowledge, and learners must follow the teacher’s pace as they deliver that content. By contrast, online learning provides a wonderful opportunity for rethinking not just the medium of teaching and learning but also the underlying systems.
Learners are able to access literally a whole world of resources outside their four walls, with the teacher then becoming a facilitator of their learning path. Unfortunately, even many online schools have defaulted to the cookie cutter approach of ‘teaching to the middle’. At Koa, we are not just doing ‘school on a screen’. By leveraging the benefits of being online, we are able to provide an academic programme that is both robust and flexible.”
Practical ways that Koa delivers individualised learning include:
- Learners belong to Pods which are small, 8-person groups that enable a high level of accountability both academically and socio-emotionally. Learners at Koa are not just a ‘face in the crowd’ – they are known personally and so their learning can be individually and intentionally tailored to meet their needs.
- Individualised timetables are created for every learner so that their daily routines lean into their strengths as well as their family’s needs and preferences.
- Personalised targets are set for each learner in all their major subject areas in 2 week cycles, letting them work at their own pace while holding them accountable to their progress.
- Enrichment streams are handpicked for each learner from a whole world of options based on their own passions and interests.
- Teacher Time is an opportunity for learners to get one-on-one or small group academic support specifically in areas that they find challenging.
- Platforms and courses have a Mastery based approach allowing a learner to work through the content at their own pace, prioritising the work in line with their needs.
- Live Dashboards track the daily progress of every learner, giving real-time feedback to the child, parent and teacher as they work.
How individualised learning can boost 4iR skills development
Anderson explains, “One of the critical shifts in the workplace today is the fact that soft skills are becoming more and more important. In an ever more digitised and automated world, it’s those soft skills – the ‘human’ element – which makes our contributions valuable. Because each individual is different, soft skills cannot be taught in the same production-line way that we used to teach hard skills and content knowledge, where everyone learns the same thing in the same way at the same time.
Research from the Pew Institute identifies some key characteristics of learning if we want our kids to be set up for success in the future, including the need for them to have more individual choice when it comes to their learning path, as well as the ability to work at their own pace. This early experience of engaging actively in their own learning, also sets school children on the path to becoming lifelong learners, which is recognised as a vital workplace asset in these fast-changing times.”
Does individualised learning mean less teamwork and engagement with peers and teachers?
“Not necessarily. It can mean MORE engagement!” Anderson says, “If we are all doing the same thing at the same time and in the same way, then we have very little to contribute to the group. When we are all able to follow an individualised learning path, we are able to contribute something unique to the group. Individualisation is what makes teamwork effective. Of course, you have to be intentional about creating those opportunities for collaboration and engagement.
Again, we have unfortunately seen many versions of online schooling where there is little opportunity for engagement. That’s why high engagement drives all our decisions at Koa. By blending individualised learning with a high engagement environment, every person can follow their own learning path and engage meaningfully with others every single day.”