Academic Article: Personalized Approach to 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 possible.
Personalization can be perceived in three ways: through relationships, engagement, and personal competencies1:
- Relationships. The teacher forms relationships with the student and parents to better understand their needs.
- Student Engagement. The counselor initiates engagement with the student, 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.
Notably, 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 graduation2.
The Role of Teachers in Personalized Approach to Learning
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 (Aurora Institute) identified key elements for teachers about personalization3:
- 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.
- Meeting students where they are, determining where they need to be, and scaffolding the right zone of proximal development to get them there.
- Occurring when students learn at their own pace using the tools that help them learn and augment their strengths.
- 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.
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. 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 rewarding4. 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 results5.
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; therefore, 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, English, math, science, history/geography, and over 100 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.
Families can choose from the following teacher support packages:
- Teacher-led packages: The Silver, Silver+, Gold, and Diamond for grades 3–12, and the Sapphire Live package for grades 3–8.
- Parent-led packages: The book-based package for students in grades PreK-2, and the online Bronze package for students in grades 3–10.
To identify students’ needs during the admissions process, new students need to take a diagnostic test that provides counselors with information concerning student’s academic strengths and weaknesses in math and English. The student’s counselor reviews diagnostic test results, previous school records, and, in collaboration with parents, suggests what courses might meet the student needs the most based on accreditation requirements, graduation requirements, and the student’s interests.
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 9–12, Concurrent Credits (CC) approved by Northwest Nazarene University for students in grades 11–12, the Dual Enrollment (DE) program which allows students in grades 11-12 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) and an Active Tier Three Plan.
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 of students who 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 objective 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 serve a diverse set of students including missionary kids, military families, immigrants, and international students living abroad. The flexibility of Enlightium Academy’s International Students Program provides curriculum access 24/7 which is ideal for students living in timezones outside of the U.S.
Summer School. Summer provides an excellent opportunity for every student to excel academically or get an early start on 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 the upcoming school year's courses.
Early Start. Some students need extra time to succeed in a challenging course. Enlightium’s Early Start Program was designed for students who want to work ahead of their schedule. Students are invited to begin the next school year as early as June with the official start of the school year in August.
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. Their 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. 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-12, 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, as well as truncated monthly payment schedules for completing the school year in less time than the standard student.
Credit Recovery (CRx) courses are assigned to Enlightium students in grades 3-12, who previously 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 Naviance platform provides students in grades 6-8 with opportunities for self discovery, goal setting, career exploration, and more. The platform provides students in grades 9-12 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 diagnostic 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 students at-risk to students who need a personalized approach to learning.
In addition, Enlightium supports high achieving students via personalized learning. Elementary school students who score above average at their grade level in the diagnostic tests and who display above average performance on the previous school’s progress report (B’s and above) may be considered for 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.
Personalization also provides an opportunity for progressing ahead of school peers. Per their Enlightium counselor’s approval and collaboration with teachers and parents, a student may take advanced courses beyond the student's grade level. An 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 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 diagnostic 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.
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, high school English, and high school science. Fees are applicable for courses above the standard course load or for Add-on courses such as the English Language Learner Program or the Gifted and Higher-Level Learner Program.
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 course plan that supports their college plans and career goals. Teachers also stay in frequent contact with both students and parents.
When counselors work on a new student’s graduation plan, the counselor reviews the previous school’s report card/transcript, diagnostic 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:
- The Intervention Program that supports students in needs through English Language Learners (ELL), Tier Three Academic Interventions, or more as needed.
- High achievers can receive support through NCAA-approved courses, honors courses, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Dual Enrollment (DE) courses, and Concurrent Credit (CC) courses.
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 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 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 find a way to provide support for that need. 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.
Consider Enlightium Academy 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.
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.
- 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.
Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., & Powell, A. (2013). Mean what you say: Defining and integrating personalized, blended and competency education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).
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.
Carnahan, C., & Fulton, L. (2013). Virtually forgotten: Special education students in cyber schools. TechTrends, 57(4), 46–52.