By Maria Moser, Senior Director of Teaching and Learning, NCLR and Ace Parsi, Personalized Learning Partnership Manager, National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Personalized learning is the new “it” in education. This approach, often defined by flexible learning environments that meet student interests, assets and challenges, has achieved the mantle of educational panacea, and has plenty of smart, committed advocates highlighting its potential as a game changer in educational equity conversations. Representing equity groups working in this space, we remain cautiously optimistic, knowing that there’s inevitably a gap between aspirations and reality and closing that gap demands a lot of work.
Like other advocates, we are excited by the potential of personalized learning to better serve students with disabilities (SWDs) and English Language Learners (ELLs). In principle, personalized learning invites students to demonstrate learning in multiple ways and address skills and topics at a flexible pace. It creates a systemic lens that not only identifies student challenges—and subsequently directs more timely supports to address those challenges—but also builds off students’ strengths and interests. In a world where skills such as self-advocacy, collaboration and communication are as important as content mastery, the personalized learning movement seems to demand high expectations and opportunities to develop these 21st-century competencies for all learners. Last, but not least, personalized learning builds off proven practice in serving students with disabilities and ELLs such as personalized plans, cultural responsiveness, and universal design for learning.