Computer Science education personalised learning
Articles
March 17, 2022

Personalized learning is taking over the classroom. Are you prepared?

In 30 seconds...

The concept of personalized learning has attracted a lot of attention recently. We discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of this increasingly popular pedagogical method.

The concept of personalized learning has garnered much attention in the last few years. Along with healthcare and other sectors that have traditionally focused on blanket solutions in a war of logistics and resource availability, education has become more and more available to even the most underprivileged in our society. The renaissance of online learning and EdTech has made learning accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. However, with huge numbers of students now in reach of and desperate for a good education, the ability for traditional teaching methods to get the most out of students’ is beginning to falter (Or perhaps more accurately, has always been flawed and is only now getting the attention it deserves).

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning focuses on the individual and tries to tailor teaching methods and curriculum to a student’s “preferred learning style”. Theories behind personalized learning argue that matching a students’ preferred learning style has a beneficial impact on student self-efficacy, belief and learning outcomes (Whether or not learning styles exist or not is a debate for another article). Consider for a moment a math class with students at a variety of skill levels: A teacher must be flexible enough to continue challenging those that grasp the concepts faster while also providing more guidance to those that take more time.

Tailoring teaching methods to individuals can take many forms: simple solutions include flexible seating arrangements in classrooms and building learner profiles that help a teacher assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses in their learning ability. Sometimes teachers take a more laissez-faire approach to personalized learning by allowing students’ to determine what they find the most meaningful and relevant parts of the curriculum to tackle and encouraging students to facilitate their own learning needs. [1]

What are the challenges in implementing personalized learning?

This method of teaching, however, requires a great deal of time and attention spent on communicating with individual students and preparing course materials designed for different learning styles. At the moment, personalized learning remains niche, implemented predominantly in private institutions with the resources to employ enough teaching staff to have a serviceable ratio of teachers to students.

Some educational institutions admit tens of thousands of students and often have to accommodate hundreds of students in a single course. Tailoring teaching methods for this situation is undoubtedly a huge challenge. Most higher education institutions continue to use traditional lecture-based approaches to teaching because it requires very little setup time, doesn’t require a huge amount of staff and training, and doesn’t require a communication infrastructure between teachers and students. But, more and more schools are implementing smaller class sizes and more involved, tutorial-based approaches to teaching. Tailoring teaching methods becomes much more feasible when teachers can focus on twenty to thirty students at a time.

Personalize your teaching with inline comments, rubrics and group assignments!

Personalized learning and formative assessment

A key component of personalized education is the amount of one-on-one instruction time given to each student. To facilitate more customized instruction, teachers have to engage students individually to assess current performance and revise their teaching strategies for that student.

As I have discussed in a previous article, formative feedback, given before work is completed and intended to help students progress, is a cornerstone of successful educational programs. Crucially, formative feedback is also a necessary part of personalized learning as it is a way for teachers to give tailored guidance at important moments in their courses. The timely and curated nature of formative feedback is exactly what drives learning as it enables students to learn from their misunderstandings and apply them to future lessons.

This is difficult to accomplish in large classrooms, particularly in coursework-heavy modules, as teachers have to spend much of their time grading. In this context, grading is considered as summative feedback, a final analysis of the intake of course material, rather than formative feedback. Formative feedback is a way for teachers to assess a student’s understanding of a subject (whether they grasp the key concepts) rather than evaluating their performance with numerical metrics.

How technology is used to facilitate personalized learning

This is where technology comes into play with personalized learning. New technologies have brought many teaching solutions from better teacher-student communications, to more varied and engaging teaching materials. The use of AI in learning apps has enabled specialized course-content geared towards the level of each individual and gamification has also aroused interest as an interesting way to engage students more in their learning materials. However, one crucial way that technology has struggled to enable better personalized teaching methods is by reducing the amount of grading time in exchange for more time for formative feedback.

CodeGrade is one such platform that is trying to rectify this issue. Computer science courses are often heavily coursework based and require an astronomical amount of time to grade assignments. CodeGrade’s continuous automatic grading abilities combined with its intuitive code viewer enables teachers to focus more on providing formative feedback to students at the right moment.

What does the future of personalized learning look like?

Much of the recent discussion around personalized learning has revolved around the use of statistical methods and continuous data collection on student performances to optimize teaching strategies. In a way, pedagogy, like almost all other fields, is shifting paradigms towards an empirical science. Teachers are treating their classrooms like lab experiments; finding out whether students learn better when education is tailored to their preferred style and how to facilitate that in the classroom. As institutions begin to see the value in a humanistic perspective, the continued pursuit of better learning outcomes for individual students will inevitably lead to more tailored teaching methods.

Bibliography

  1. Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education. (2017, January). Reimagining the role of technology in education. National Education Technology Plan. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf
  2. Miller, A. (2019, February 20). 3 myths of personalized learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-myths-personalized-learning
  3. Shi, Y., Peng, C., Yang, H. H., & MacLeod, J. (2018). Examining interactive whiteboard-based instruction on the academic self-efficacy, Academic Press and achievement of college students. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 33(2), 115–130. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2018.1454829
Samuel Natarajan

Samuel Natarajan

Teacher Success Manager
Samuel is Teacher Success Manager at CodeGrade and works hand-in-hand with Teachers and Professors in CS education. He’s trained in Cognitive Neuroscience but has a broad view on education, software development, and tech that sees him fit in comfortably with the IT crowd. In his free time he boulders, throws frisbees for fun and makes a mean stir-fry.

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