Personalized Learning: Modest Gains, Big Challenges, RAND Study Finds | Robots4STEM

Personalized learning plans are one of the more recent trends in education. Whether it is a helpful or positive trend, however, is in question. According to a recent RAND Corporation study, the answer to that is “maybe”. 

With funding being provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the study is one of several conducted over a multi-year period by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit organization that researches and develops new solutions to public policy challenges. On paper, the concept of personalized learning plans seems to make sense: simply match students’ preferences and individual pace with personalized learning environments. In practice, however, there can be some snags.

In the most recent study, 40 schools and their principals, teachers, and students were surveyed about personalized learning. The schools using personalized learning plans had difficulty offering a variety of material that catered to individual students’ interests, and they also noted a lack of high-quality digital-based instruction material. One of the biggest challenges identified by these schools was a lack of time for the personalized lessons to be planned out for students.

But there were some bright spots. In the personalized schools that RAND surveyed, teachers reported that there was more time for one-on-one teacher-student interaction. In addition, test scores went up a bit in schools that implemented personalized learning plans. In a recent article by Education Week, the CEO of LEAP Innovations, Phyllis Lockett, stated, “The longer schools are at this, the better they do. One of the things in this study that gives me real encouragement is the two-year numbers. There’s a positive trend there.”

There were four areas that the study found to be helpful for personalized learning:

  1. Personal Learning Paths
  2. Learner Profiles
  3. Flexible Learning Environments
  4. Competency-Based Progressions

One product that successfully incorporates all of the above concepts of personalized and flexible learning is theRobots4STEM program. With JettLingo’s drag-and-drop block coding, students learn to code Jett, a virtual avatar, who can be accessed from anywhere in the world with any device that has a Wi-Fi connection. The platform uses pre-made lessons which allows students to learn at their own pace and does not require teachers to have a technical background. With options like these available, it’s going to be interesting to see where personalized learning takes schools in the next several years.

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