We know that the stakes feel high when it comes to education. Parents and students are often worrying about college options and career paths from the very beginning of the educational journey.
Education is ultimately about helping each and every child thrive. The test scores and the college offers and the career paths will unfold naturally before the student who is passionate, engaged in learning, and confident in their own ability to learn and grow.
How do you encourage students in these qualities? You put them in a personalized, student-centered classroom environment. Keep reading as we explore the power of personalized learning for your student's life-long success.
It's time to reconsider what a successful middle and high school education should look like.
What Are Colleges Really Looking for in a Student?
A 2017 survey of university admissions officers commissioned by ACS International Schools found that admissions professionals are focusing their attention on these 7 qualities or skills:
- A positive attitude toward study
- A passion for the chosen course subject
- An ability to think and work independently
- An ability to persevere and complete tasks
- An inquiring mind
- Good written English
- An ability to work well in groups
Anything about this list surprise you? The common theme of all these qualities is that they are personal skills or habits that have been learned and developed, not grades, tests, or topic specific knowledge.
Your student can learn how to prepare for college in high school. For parents and students who are interested in strong performance in higher education and in life, it’s important to choose a high school learning environment that is focusing on helping students develop these life-long soft skills that will make them confident, happy, and passionate in every learning and work environment.
Traditional Learning vs. Personalized or Student-Centered Learning
In the traditional classroom, a teacher is in charge of the curricular goals for the day and provides content in a lecture-style format. How does that teacher know if the goals are met? Typically, some form of graded work product is used to assess the level of comprehension. While this method may work fine for some students, many others are left behind.
Traditional models of education require all students to adapt to a particular classroom structure. The problem is that not all students are the same. Some students are not challenged enough, while others can’t keep up. In some cases, all students are passed on to new grade levels whether they have achieved mastery of the previous year’s content or not. Some continue to get left behind.
A student-centered classroom “flips the script” when it comes to education. It allows the student’s talents, interests, and personal background to guide the way curricular goals are set and content is taught. Students with varying abilities and interests experience success and become engaged learners.
Here's How and Why Personalized Learning Works
Here are a few of the elements of student-centered learning that contribute to an optimal environment for all students and that prepare students for success in higher education and beyond.
- It's Experiential
Learning by doing is the way that many of us acquire skills, even after formal education. When starting a new job, we often have to jump right in to figure out how to apply what we know in a new setting. If this what will be expected of students later in life, why not start modeling it now?
Hands-on learning allows students have ownership of their learning experience. They are challenged to figure out how to apply a set of skills in their own way. Students become the main character in the story, instead of just reading about someone else’s experience.
Instead of reading about how a bill becomes law, why not visit elected officials and civil servants to see how the process works, then, write a bill? Experiential learning takes students off the sidelines and puts them into the game.
- It's Tailored to the Student
Many traditional classrooms can be described as “one size fits all.” Students are all assessed in the same way, despite differences in learning styles, background, and experiences. If a student receives a low grade on an exam, they may still be expected to continue to the next unit. A high performing student, bored by the ease with which they are mastering the material, may start to disengage.
With student-centered learning, individualized academic plans take into account a student's skills and interests. The student must demonstrate mastery of the content before moving on to the next unit. The difficulty level can be modified to address the student’s specific needs; whether they require more time to understand a concept, or are ready for more challenging content.
Individualized and focused course work, particularly if combined with small class size, allows for students to succeed in the classroom, at their own pace.
Tailoring learning plans and learning paces to the individual student helps students stay confident and positive about their own abilities and interests. They become more comfortable with failure and struggle because they are competing only with themselves and not their peers.
- It Fosters a Sense of Self-Confidence and Inclusivity
In many traditional settings, fitting in can be hard for students. Middle schoolers and teenagers are in a phase of life where they are exploring their identity and trying to figure out who they are. This process is important as it lays the groundwork for a healthy adulthood. For students that don’t fit in, who feel different from their classmates or peers, this can be challenging. In student-centered learning environments, who the student is and who they want to be is just as important as the rest of the curriculum.
Student-centered learning encourages young people to be engaged in their learning experience. The individual student is the most important factor in the curricular equation. Learning outcomes are developed in a way that meets the student's needs. The quality of student-centered learning found in a micro school allows for finding the "right fit" instead of "fitting in."
Set Your Student Up for Life-Long Success Through Personalized Learning
We know that personalized learning CAN prepare students for college, career, and life success because we know that personalized learning allows the student to become the best version of themselves.
Happy, confident, engaged middle schoolers and teenagers become responsible, empathetic, engaged adults who are able to handle failure and uncertainty with grace.
Here at BTA, we are committed to helping students prepare for the complexity and uncertainty of tomorrow.
Want to learn more about how education is changing in the 21st century? Come to one of our upcoming events to see the BTA difference for yourself!