"Regardless of their chosen career or college major, all students can be making more focused, productive use of their time in school. However, the major obstacle to this shift in paradigm is the sheer inertia of 'one size fits all' curricula."
By the time they’ve graduated from high school, American students are expected to be college or career ready. That means bursting out of the bubble of compulsory school attendance and becoming a functional, productive citizen who’s found their niche in the world of adults. However, if you imagine all the eighteen-year-olds you know, you’ll quickly realizing this isn’t happening enough in our school system. Increasingly, traditional education is failing to prepare students for the “real world” that looms after graduation.
Personalized learning, on the other hand, provides countless opportunities for learners to figure out who they want to be and build knowledge and skills accordingly. Learner-centric or personalized approaches work by fostering strong reflection and self-assessment from an early age and then encouraging students to use those metacognitive skills and support from teachers to think about possible career paths and callings.
For the last 20 years, high schools around the country have increasingly emphasized college preparedness as a key factor in the curriculum. This works for many students, but for those who plan on entering the workforce or military immediately after graduation, this approach has left them wondering what they’re even doing in school each day. Personalized learning empowers these students to see a clear, successful future for themselves and use school as a place where meaningful learning and pre-professional skill building take place.
For those who do wish to attend college, personalized learning provides opportunities to begin building core knowledge and skills related to their chosen undergraduate program. A student who knows they want to be an engineer can work with teachers to build a program of study that includes complex mathematical, scientific and technological content to help foster an engineering mindset. A student who knows they want to attend a music conservatory program can create a personalized experience that emphasizes discipline, organization and performance skill.
Regardless of their chosen career or college major, all students can be making more focused, productive use of their time in school. However, the major obstacle to this shift in paradigm is the sheer inertia of “one size fits all” curricula. As long as all students are told to learn the same things in the same way, none of them can truly prepare in the best, most individualized way for their future in the real world.