Personalized learning and why it’s beneficial to students


By Jon Hill, Middle School Principal (2015-2022)

The way we learn is as unique as our DNA; we absorb information in our own ways, we show our understanding using different techniques, the way we approach our education is our own personal journey.

This is why personalized learning (PL) is so pivotal to the overall success of a student.

Personalized Learning is an approach that recognizes the interests, talents, and challenges of every student, and then supports them in their pursuit of meaningful learning and creative problem-solving.

PL has become a key method for establishing equity for all students. Equity is not about giving every student the same opportunities to learn, but rather a conscious and informed choice to give every student the support they need to own and maximize their learning.

This approach to learning is about recognizing the interests, talents, and challenges of every student, and then supporting them in their pursuit of meaningful learning and creative problem-solving. Discover how ISB has created a challenging and joyful learning experience, here.

And at ISB, we’re continually striving to stay on top of best practices when it comes to teaching and learning to guarantee we are giving our students the best, most innovative, personalized education. Learn more about characteristics of the best international school.

Recently, for example, I was in the U.S. for the 2019 iNACOL conference, an event focused on PL. Here are some of the lessons I learned and how we’re incorporating these best practices into our curriculum.

Personalize learning - student


A look at personalized learning

PL, in its highest form, puts the student in the driver's seat with the teacher coming alongside as a co-learner and supporter of the student's learning journey.

Is High School really preparing students for life? Find out here.

If we want students to make good choices in the future, it’s less important that we give them a wide body of "essential" knowledge (only deemed essential today with the future a mystery). Rather, it’s more important that we give them opportunities to practice making choices and learning from the results.

Many of these choices will result in failure and probably some stress for students. As educators, our job is to be the caring supporter who helps students make sense of both failure and success and develop their identities as learners.

We can help them break complex problems of their choosing into manageable chunks and coach them in their choices.

If we make all the choices about what students spend time doing, then when they fail it’s much easier for them to just disengage and blame something external or say they’re not good at the task given to them. Their investment and resilience are much higher when they choose the problem and are given feedback and support throughout the learning process.


Personalized learning in our Middle School

At ISB, our Middle School offers many PL opportunities.

Many of the core subjects are divided into theme-based units, which allows students to engage with elements that spark their imagination.

With a high degree of project-based learning and integration across disciplines, ISB educators work together in small teams to monitor student progress and ensure academic differentiation in accordance with individual ability.

Students can choose an interest to pursue or an academic group to take part in during their Elective periods. The aim is for every Middle School student to experience new activities and discover their passions.

Can we offer PL all the time and in every subject area? Probably not. But we can make sure students are getting it in places and ways that really matter to them and motivate them to take the lead in their own learning journeys.

Learn how ISB has redefined learning to prepare students for success

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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