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Personalised Learning

Personalised Learning overview

Students may have different levels of understanding and ability. They will all absorb and process learning material and content in different ways and at varying speeds.  It is necessary to adopt a more tailored and personalised approach to teaching, in order to allow all students to achieve. This approach focuses on

i) individualising the student learning experience

ii) differentiatingactivities depending on student need 

iii) offering challenge and stimulation in the learning environment.  

This should contribute to students having a longer lasting and deeper acquisition of knowledge and improved self-esteem and autonomy as learners.

It is an inclusive approach an approach to teaching that attempts to ensure that all students learn well, despite their many differences” (Perry, 2003)

This is often described as student centred learning and this approach uses differentiated learning and instruction to tailor the student’s curriculum and supporting activities according to need.  

Students within the same classroom work together with shared purpose but each have their own personalised journey through the course curriculum.

These interventions may include

i) identifying various options for directed reading in module guides and teaching sessions,

ii) activities and questioning to enhance higher order thinking, and

iii) embedded staged activities to support students' preparation for their assessment .

All these interventions are located within a wider context of staff regularly reviewing all their students' abilities, potential and progress, with tutors encouraged to be flexible in design, delivery and assessment in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. Tailoring instruction to each student’s learning style, readiness level and interest (Turner et al, 2017).

Key Principles

  • Building a curriculum that focuses on problem solving, builds independent thinking and fosters inquiry; 
  • A culture of high expectations and aspiration;
  • Identifying those students that need additional challenge (perhaps use your academic advisors to do this); Do this early in the semester.
  • Offering a robust and exciting approach to critical thinking at all levels; Plan extension activities for all your sessions
  • Think about providing masterclasses - which stretch and challenge students further. These can be open to all using questions in class consistently that actively facilitate higher order thinking;
  • Assessments that offer choice (and clear criteria -and marking across the full range of marks to allow students to get firsts)  and allow students to work to a high level to demonstrate critique and curiosity; 
  • Clearly identified feedback on assessment that specifically suggests opportunities for development; offer choices in assessment so you can foster student interest and enthusiasm and thus allow them to demonstrate their optimum capability to tight assessment criteria. 
  • Clear, signposted differentiated reading in your module handbooks, course schedules. “If you struggled with XXX…. Read XXXX.” “If you are interested in this and want to take it further look at/read XXXX”
  • Peer and self assessment; 
  • Building on what bright students are interested in and already know and do outside the classroom; 
  • Building team skills essential for employability; encouraging the bright students to teach other members of the class who may be struggling 
  • Enrichment weeks built into your timetable e.g. with job placements, visits from alumni, a journal club,
  • Identifying and nurturing those who would/should  go on to Masters degrees/ or taught research degree

Research on Personalised Learning

Turner, W Solis O. and Kincade, D. (2017) Differentiating instruction for large classes in HE,International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29,3,490-500. PDF version here

Shay, S., (2013) Conceptualizing curriculum differentiation in higher education: a sociology of knowledge point of view, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34:4

Page last updated: 19/11/2020

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