5 Reasons to Personalize Learning in Elementary School

The movement towards personalized learning in K-12 classrooms is quickly becoming a fundamental element of modern approaches to teaching and learning. But understanding the way personalized learning fits into and supports different classroom environments is key to purposeful implementation of new technology and instruction.

In elementary classrooms, personalized learning has the potential to lay a strong foundation for learners to come into their own strengths and begin their journey as problem-solvers, design thinkers, and collaborators from the start. If you’re an elementary school teacher looking to more deeply integrate personalized learning into your classroom, before you get to the exciting pieces, like engaging lessons and new technology, revisit your “why” for personalized learning. Identifying what you truly hope to achieve with personalized learning will empower you to build a strong, purposeful strategy for execution.

To get you started, consider five of our favorite reasons to personalize learning in elementary school:

Foster Student Agency

Personalized learning requires that the teacher and the student partner to design a meaningful learning experience, which allows students to exercise agency and make their voice heard in a place that can have an impact on their lives. Giving students these opportunities in a safe space, where they have support from their teachers and room for trial, error, and growth, is a key benefit of personalized learning.

For more on student agency, inquiry, and design thinking in personalized learning, hear from Tom Vander Ark:

Address Individual Needs

Personalized learning allows teachers to address individual student needs. With the right technology, students can take their own path to fill learning gaps, or forge ahead with more challenging content. For elementary school teachers who also need to focus on grade level standards, personalized learning can serve as the perfect addition to also reach learners on an individual level — especially when adaptive technology is used alongside core materials.

To learn more about how adaptive software can power your approach to personalized learning, see:

Provide Meaningful Learning Experiences

While teachers have been personalizing learning without technology for a long time, it’s widely agreed upon that purposeful technology integration can take that personalization to the next level. Giving elementary students the opportunity to work productively with digital tools and interact with technology for the purpose of learning will serve them well throughout their experiences in school and career. The key element here is to ensure technology is used with purpose.

If you’re not already familiar, the SAMR model is a good start to understanding what purposeful technology integration looks like:

Prepare for the Workforce of Tomorrow

For many educators and parents of today’s elementary school students, it’s difficult — and overwhelming— to imagine preparing young learners for careers in a workforce that will be vastly different by the time these students have graduated. Personalized learning can help these students develop critical skills that will help them adapt in a constantly-evolving environment, like problem-solving, critical thinking, lifelong learning, and collaboration. All of these skills can be practiced through increased student agency, which we know is central to personalized learning.

For more on how personalized learning can foster important skills and create student leaders, hear from Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies, McGraw-Hill Education National Curriculum Specialist:

Get to Know Each Learner with In-Depth Data

Lastly, personalized learning, especially when driven by powerful adaptive learning technologies, can provide elementary school teachers with invaluable student data insights. Understanding exactly what each student knows, needs to know, and is ready to learn next empowers educators to continue personalized instruction throughout the year, building on each student’s strengths and carrying them down a path for learning that aligns to their needs.

For some advice from other educators on using data in the classroom, see: