Academic Article: Personalized Approach to Learning

personolized-approach

Modern-day parents seek flexible and personalized educational experiences based on the unique needs and strengths of their children1. The personalized approach to learning is becoming a reality today with online schools utilizing technology2. Technology makes personalization practical since it: (1) allows teachers to differentiate instruction; (2) structures content and activities into manageable pathways; (3) allows facilitated individual and group work across time and place; (4) gives parents access to their students’ progress at all times, and (5) evaluates students’ academic performance by counselors who make decisions about their progression to graduation3

What is Personalized Learning?

An individualized approach to learning has been used for decades in K-12 schools as it addresses students who need to proceed through a curriculum more slowly or immerse in a certain topic or principle to really “get” it. Personalized learning goes beyond individualization; it seeks to understand the personality of the learner which includes the student’s preferences, interests, and aspirations. In personalized learning, instruction is tailored to each student’s interests, innate curiosity, strengths and needs. It includes enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn - to provide flexibility and support to ensure mastery at the highest standards possible4. Personalization can be perceived in three ways: through relationships, engagement, and personal competencies5:

  • Relationships. The teacher forms relationships with students and parents to better understand their needs. 
  • Student Engagement. The counselor initiates engagement with students, parents, and teachers to navigate the learning process. 
  • Personal Competencies. The teacher-student interactions enhance the student’s cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and social-emotional competencies. 

The Role of Teachers in Personalized Approach to Learning

Personalization refers to the teacher’s relationships with students and their families and the use of multiple instructional strategies. In the personalized approach, teachers design instruction that is rigorous, flexible, and adaptable, and they focus on critical thinking and metacognitive practices to develop stronger and deeper independent learning.

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) identified key elements for teachers about personalization6:

  • knowing each individual student based on their academic and personal interests (i.e., about relationships).
  • accessing a curriculum that meets students’ individual needs, reflects their zone of proximal development, and gives them the opportunity to access resources.
  • engaging students with personal learner plans, where contributions from students, parents, counselors, and teachers provide a path for learning to address students’ individual needs, interests, and learning styles.
  • occurring when students learn at their own pace using the tools that help them learn and augment their strengths.
  • meeting students where they are, determining where they need to be, and scaffolding the right zone of proximal development to get them there.

The Role of Students in the Personalized Approach to Learning

Personalization allows students to take ownership of their learning and give them the opportunity to feel valued. In online settings, students manage their school calendars and daily schedules to stay on track, so they are free to move through courses at their own pace as long as they are meeting weekly and quarterly deadlines. Students have access to a wide range of content that they find of interest which consequently inspires their learning. For example, they can pick the topic they are going to research for an assignment, a book to read, and how they want to write the procedures for their lab work. Importantly, a strong partnership and communication between parents and teachers give students confidence, spark their desire to learn, and ensure a successful learning experience.

The Role of Parents in the Personalized Approach to Learning 

Historically, parents showed increased involvement in their child’s education with having more freedom to make decisions about their child’s learning. Parents of children who are self-motivated, fully participating, and accountable found the transition to online school to be pleasant and rewarding7. Parents contribute to their child's personalized learning experience by being present and available as much as possible, showing an interest, asking questions, and communicating frequently with teachers. Research also suggests that online learning options of modifying curriculum for individual learners, with sufficient parental involvement, yield better academic results8.

How Enlightium Academy Supports ALL Students Learning

Online homeschooling is one of the top options available to parents in the 21st century since it provides parents not only the opportunity to choose the approach to education that they believe would benefit their children most, but also the option to teach moral and religious principles to their children. At Enlightium, we believe that each child has special talents and learning styles, thus we partner with parents to empower students to achieve their highest potential with multiple options of support and accountability. 

We use a curriculum that is built exclusively for Christian school. It is a comprehensive online platform for students in grades 3 through 12. We offer lessons in five core subject areas: Bible, language arts, math, science, history/geography, and over 70 electives. The curriculum is rigorous, interactive, and provides instruction based on a Christian worldview. The courses include text-based lessons, projects, quizzes, and tests that engage students while they learn. Notably, optional external supplementary resources, interactive learning games, audio and video clips, and offline assignments help students develop the skills necessary for academic success in a media-rich environment. 

To identify students’ needs during the admissions process, Enlighitum’s team designed an evaluation tool for English and math. The test results provide counselors with information concerning student’s academic strengths and weaknesses. The student counselor reviews test results, previous school records, and in collaboration with parents, suggests what programs and tuition package might meet the student needs the most: 

  • Teacher-led packages: The Silver, Silver Premium, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond packages for grades 3–12. 
  • Parent-led packages: The Primary book-based package for students in grades PreK-2, and the online Bronze package for students in grades 3–10.

The Enlightium Academy team helps students succeed academically by cultivating each student’s self-awareness, self-regulation, knowledge-forming processes, social skills, enthusiasm for learning, and engagement in the learning process. This is achieved through various programs implemented at Enlightium:

  • Advanced Courses. Enlightium offers Honors courses in grades 3–12, the Gifted and Higher-Level Learner (GHLL) courses for students in grades 3–8, Advanced Placement (AP) courses for students in grades 10–12, Concurrent Credits (CC) approved by Northwest Nazarene University for students in grades 11–12, Dual Enrollment (DE) program which allows high school students the opportunity to take college classes while attending Enlightium, and courses for athletes approved by National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
  • Intervention Program. The intervention team, which includes teachers, counselors, and administration, works together to identify the unique needs of students who struggle academically and offer additional guidance and support. The intervention can include modification of curriculum or comprehensive assistance for English Language Learners (ELL), students at risk through Bridge program, and Academic Intervention Measures and Support (AIMS)/504 for those in need of an active plan. 
  • Tutoring. From time to time, all students may struggle to understand some concepts, especially in math, language arts projects, or research papers where they need additional support. Purchased tutoring minutes are never wasted because any remaining tutoring minutes can be carried over to another session or they can be used by another student in your home. 
  • Mission Program. This program provides students with an opportunity to develop their unique passions for lifelong ministry. The structure of the Mission program is built around the mind, heart, and hands. Students study the person and work of Christ, interact with their peers, and apply themselves in the local church settings. Whether students are considering future vocational ministry or simply desire a way to cultivate a firm biblical foundation that results in living the Gospel well, this program may serve their needs. The hope is to stir up the unique personhood, gifts, and talents of our students as they become wholehearted followers of Christ.
  • International Students. This program is designed for international students who would like to learn about American culture, practice the English language, continue their U.S. education while living abroad, and get ready for college in the U.S. International students are offered assistance with applying for colleges and universities. Through this program we assist a diverse set of students including missionary kids, military families, immigrants, and international students living abroad. The flexibility of Enlightium Academy’s program provides curriculum access 24/7 which makes it ideal for students from all around the world. 
  • Summer School. Summer provides an excellent opportunity for every student to excel academically or start AP courses. It is a great option for students whether they need to finish out the current school year, recover credits from failed coursework, or get a headstart on next year's courses.
  • Early Start. Some students need extra time to succeed in a challenging course. Enlightium’s early start program was designed for those who want to work ahead of their schedule. Students are invited to begin the next school year as early as June.
  • Readiness Evaluation options are available for students in K-8 who are new to Enlightium and are: (1) previously homeschooled and whose parents are unable to provide a grade report or sufficient proof of school work, or (2) two or more years below their peers and with no health or academic documentation. The Enlightium counselor will work with parents evaluating their child’s unique situation and recommend at the parent’s cost and pursuant a professional evaluation that would provide data on academic, psychological, and social development (ex. Woodcock Johnson). In some cases, Enlightium administration may approve a student to take one or more of Enlightium’s subject based test-out exams for English, Math, Science, or History. A student must pass the exam(s) with C or above. Test-out fees are applied. 
  • The Accelerated Path is also available to advanced students in grades K-8, which allows them to complete a grade level at a faster pace per counselor ’s review and approval based on the student's skills. Fees are applicable for courses above the regular course requirements.
  • Credit Recovery (CRx) courses are assigned to Enlightium students in grades 3-12, who took a course but did not pass it. The counselor communicates to the parents if the student can benefit from a credit recovery option or needs to retake a failed course. By taking a credit recovery option, the student is able to earn credit without retaking the entire course. Instead, the student will complete testing on concepts and relearn the material that has not been mastered. Please note that a credit recovery option is not available for NCAA, Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and Concurrent Credit (CC) courses in high school.
  • Career-readiness program - Naviance. The platform provides middle school students with opportunities for self discovery, goal setting, career exploration, and more. The platform provides high school students with the opportunity to understand unique strengths, connect with career interests, develop self-knowledge and personal motivation, understand college possibilities, connect interests to careers, plan for life after high school, connect with colleges, and take ownership over their own education. 

A Personalized Approach to Learning in Elementary School 

During the enrollment phase for students in grades 3–5, counselors evaluate entrance test results and previous school records to determine the student's education plan and curriculum in collaboration with parental input. At Enlightium, we serve a wide range of students from standard achievers to students at risk and to students who need a personalized approach to learning. 

In addition, we support high achievers via personalized learning. Elementary school students who score above average at their grade level in the entrance tests and who display above average performance on the previous school progress report (B’s and above) may be considered for Enlightium honor courses. The honor courses demand more effort from students since they move at a heightened pace, contain more projects, and explore a subject in more depth. In addition to academic advances, honor students are required to participate more in social aspects to support the whole person's development. 

Personalization also provides an opportunity for progressing ahead of school peers. Per counselor’s approval and collaboration with teachers and parents, a student may take advanced courses beyond the student's grade level. Accelerated path is available to students where they can complete grade levels at a faster pace. Fees are applicable for courses above the regular course requirements or standard course load. 

A Personalized Approach to Learning in Middle School

As students progress to middle school, parents begin to gradually play a more supervisory role. They ensure that their child is managing their time properly and is on task with assignments. Parents work with their child’s counselor and teachers to create a schedule that accommodates increasingly challenging courses, extracurricular activities, and an increased amount of coursework.

Middle school students in grades 6–8 who score above average at their grade level on Enlightium’s entrance tests in math and English and who display above average performance on the previous school’s progress report (B’s and above) may be considered for Enlightium honor courses. The honor courses demand more effort from students since they move at a heightened pace, contain more projects, and explore a subject in more depth. In addition to academic advances, honor students are required to participate more in social aspects to support the whole person's development. 

Personalization also provides an opportunity for qualified middle school students to progress ahead of their peers by taking high school courses. Students in grades 6–8 may take high school courses per their counselor’s approval. To keep middle school students on track for graduation, the recommended high school courses they can take include state history, high school health, high school world languages, high school mathematics (ex. Algebra 1), high school history, and high school science. Fees are applicable for courses above the regular course requirements or standard course load.

A Personalized Approach to Learning in High School

As students progress into high school, parents take on the role of supervisor and mentor. High school counselors provide extra guidance to students in developing a graduation plan that supports their college plans and career goals. Teachers also stay in frequent contact with both students and parents, corresponding with them through email or phone. 

When counselors work on a new student’s graduation plan, the counselor reviews previous school transcripts, entrance test results, and other school documents as applicable. This includes an evaluation of the student’s academic skills, credits achieved, and Grade Point Average (GPA). As part of the enrollment process, applicable programs are available to assist with the student’s learning, which may include:

To fulfill Enlightium Academy’s mission of being a light to the world for the glory of God (Matt. 5:16), we are driven to make a difference in hearts and minds of our students (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 3:14–19). One of the ways that Enlightium Academy seeks to accomplish this mission is by requiring high school students to complete community service for each high school grade level in which they have been enrolled at Enlightium in order to graduate. Community service can be completed for a non-profit and/or religious organization; however, individual service projects are highly recommended. It is a great way for students to give back to their community and to promote personal growth and a servant’s heart. Examples of individual service projects that students have submitted in the past include:

  • Student grew up listening to his grandfather read the Bible to him. When the student’s grandfather’s eyesight started to fail, the student began reading the Bible to his grandfather.
  • Student went to the “Free Library” sites around his city and sterilized the receptacle and the books to help keep his community safe from the COVID-19 virus.
  • Student took the trash cans to and from the curb of his elderly neighbor on trash day. 

Community service projects allow students to see a need in their community and come up with a way to provide support for that need. Community can be defined as family, neighborhood, town, city, county, state, country, or even the world. Students also have the opportunity to grow in the servant heart of Christ through joining the Mission program

Enlightium Academy is preparing students to meet the 21st century demands of their post-high school education, work, and personal lives. High school students who meet Enlightium’s graduation requirements earn a diploma from an accredited and recognized school

  • College preparatory students and students who are pursuing an honors diploma must meet or exceed the requirements in order to receive an Enlightium honors high school diploma. 
  • Students who are pursuing a standard academic diploma must meet or exceed the criteria in order to receive an Enlightium academic high school diploma. 
  • Early Graduation. Enlightium's personalized approach to learning provides students with opportunities to move faster through the material, depending on their individual skills and knowledge, and thus complete graduation requirements early. High school students may take, in addition to their regular courses, one additional high school course per year and one during summer time. Fees are applicable for courses above the regular course requirements.

Consider Enlightium Academy as your School to Support your Child Personalized Learning 

As an accredited school, Enlightium Academy leverages technology-powered solutions to deliver exceptional education experiences. Enlightium parents and students are empowered through caring faculty, staff, and award-winning online curriculum. The Enlightium team fosters opportunities for student academic and spiritual growth, achievement, and recognition that will benefit the student’s educational journey. 

 

 

Resources:

  1. Bausell, S. (2016). From the editorial board: Virtual charter schools: Where did all the children go? The High School Journal, 99(2), 109–112. 
  2.  Curtis, H. & Werth, L. (2015). Fostering student success and engagement in a K-12 Online School. Journal of Online Learning Research, 1(2), 163–190.
  3.  Curtis, H. & Werth, L. (2015). Fostering student success and engagement in a K-12 Online School. Journal of Online Learning Research, 1(2), 163–190.
  4.  Patrick, S., Worthen, M., Frost, D., & Gentz. S (2016). Promising State Policies for Personalized Learning. Vienna, VA: International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).
  5.  Murphy, M., Redding, S., Twyman, J. S. (2016). Handbook on personalized learning for states, districts, and schools. Information Age Publishing Inc. and Center on Innovations in Learning, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. 
  6.  Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., & Powell, A. (2013). Mead what you say: Defining and integrating personalized, blended and competency education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). 
  7.  Curtis, H. & Werth, L. (2015). Fostering student success and engagement in a K-12 Online School. Journal of Online Learning Research, 1(2), 163–190.
  8.  Carnahan, C., & Fulton, L. (2013). Virtually forgotten: Special education students in cyber schools. TechTrends, 57(4), 46–52. 
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