Findings from an ongoing study released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provide compelling evidence that when teachers personalize learning experiences based on students’ unique needs, great things can happen. The study, conducted by the Rand Corporation, found that students whose teachers used assessment data to customize their learning improved in reading and math significantly over similar schools not employing personalized instructional approaches.
Personalized instruction, the well-studied and sometimes conflated practice of tailoring learning to meet each student’s strengths, needs, and interests, helps to create a classroom environment that engages and accelerates learning for all students. The study also suggests that this approach can help educators close persistent achievement gaps.
Two aspects of personalized approaches were shown to be essential to their effectiveness: transparent learning goals and standards and student ownership. The knowledge and skills students must learn as they move through school must be clear, and students should participate in their learning by partnering with teachers to set goals and track progress.
Although the 5,000 K-12 mostly low income students in urban charter schools showed varied results among the 23 schools included in the study, two-thirds found that personalized learning had significant positive effects on students’ math and reading scores as measured on the Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) assessment. Perhaps the most exciting finding is the impact on struggling students. Personalized instructional approaches helped to lift students who started the school year performing below the national average to finish the year close to or above it.
How can you use this evidence to ramp up your own practice, you ask?
If your district uses MAP like the schools in the study, you already have access to powerful personalized instructional resources linked to student scores from the assessment.
MAP data helps to define individual student learning paths and is directly actionable in a few important ways, and at no added cost:
- Identify what a student needs help with, or is ready to be challenged on, using the recently enhanced interactive Learning Continuum.
- Use an individual student’s RIT score in math from MAP to identify standards-aligned instructional resources from Khan Academy.
- Access the RIT to Resource portal, which is powered by Gooru and enables teachers and parents to find a wealth of standards-aligned Open Educational Resources (OERs).
No matter where your students are performing, assessment information can be a critical tool in pinpointing students’ unique needs, tailoring instruction – and thereby expanding the achievement possibilities for all your students.
Learn more about how other districts are using personalized learning and using data to inform instructional decisions. Stay tuned for more on personalized learning as we follow the study.