"In a traditional classroom model, it can be tough for teachers to put the philosophy of the ZPD into action because they have to 'teach the middle' of the class to benefit the majority of the people in the room. Personalized learning, on the other hand, invites teachers to work one-on-one with their students to find the ZPD for each learner."
Our education system is tasked with ensuring that each young person is college- or career-ready by the time they graduate from high school. That would be a daunting task even if students all learned the same way, but given the wide variety of personality, learning style and motivational differences between learners, it can seem like a Herculean task. Personalized learning is an approach that meets this challenge head-on and seeks to help every student maximize their potential.
Personalized learning involves fostering deep working relationships between teachers and students to make sure each learner is challenged and supported in appropriate ways that stimulate development. Teachers serve as coaches, guiding students in their explorations of both the curriculum and themselves, building powerful self-knowledge and metacognitive skill along with valuable content knowledge. In this way, personalized learning builds trust between teachers and students and sets each learner up for success.
When teachers and students work together in a personalized learning environment, it unlocks the power of something known as the “Zone of Proximal Development” (ZPD). The ZPD, first described by psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the early 20th century, describes the balance of support and independence that empowers students to learn. According to Vygotsky, students don’t learn anything by repeatedly doing skills they’ve already mastered because those activities don’t challenge them anymore. On the other hand, it can be very hard for students to learn new concepts that they have no familiarity with. It therefore becomes the job of the teacher to create a Zone of Proximal Development, in which the student is challenged and pushed outside their current scope of mastery but also supported in ways that make new concepts accessible and real for them.
In a traditional classroom model, it can be tough for teachers to put the philosophy of the ZPD into action because they have to “teach the middle” of the class to benefit the majority of the people in the room. Personalized learning, on the other hand, invites teachers to work one-on-one with their students to find the ZPD for each learner. While this may sound like “extra work” at first, it’s actually a lively, individualized process that gets teachers and students on the same team, making life easier and more productive for both parties.
Learning Relationship Management platforms (LRMs) support teachers and administrators in this work by providing online interfaces and scaffolds that simplify the process. Many strong LRMs invite students to create Learner Profiles, which help teachers get to know their learners better and support the kind of personalization that gets students into the ZPD. In addition, many LRMs allow teachers and students to work together to create custom learning experiences that leverage individual strengths and learning styles to maximize the effectiveness of learning.
To learn more about how an LRM can support personalized learning in your school, schedule a demo of Epiphany Learning today!