Students returning to schools across British Columbia in coming weeks may well experience new approaches to engage them more personally in learning than previously. The tack in this direction towards more personalized learning reflects the new education plan being implemented by the BC Ministry of Education.

This trend towards personalized learning – for which SelfDesign is an acknowledged leader – isn’t confined to BC, however, but marks a rapidly rising tide across North America, and other parts of the world, too.

The new direction reflects a convergence of insights from neurological science and psychology and trending breakthroughs in social media and technology.

Recently, neurological science has confirmed that each person, no matter their age, has a unique learning ‘ecosystem’, reflecting different experiences and genetics, and other factors. And psychology has confirmed that people are more enthused to learn when they have a personal interest in a subject or the learning approach matches their preferred inclinations and dispositions.

SelfDesign, which traces its origins to the mid-1980s and the Wondertree program begun by Brent Cameron,  has always shaped its program offerings around these insights, and helped thousands of children and youth experience learning breakthroughs they might never have otherwise enjoyed in conventional settings. Both Brent and myself also completed graduate-level degrees that confirmed the efficacy of supporting personalized approaches.

Elsewhere, other educators have also acknowledged the importance of personalizing learning, though implementing such approaches has proven very challenging in the face of conventional approaches in which learning achievement has been largely defined by standardized curriculum and testing.

Today, with the help of new technology options coupled with social media, there’s no denying the opportunities for all students to be supported in learning through a spectrum of personalized approaches.

The spectrum of personalized approaches includes both a ‘differentiated instruction’ model, which is oriented to helping students of differing backgrounds, competencies and dispositions reach teacher-defined curriculum goals, to a more self-directed model that supports goals based on student-declared learning interests.  

Both models may be seen in SelfDesign and offer learners more opportunities to design the what and how of their learning, to ‘dive deep’ into areas of learning interest, and also influence how their learning is assessed. In providing these opportunities learners also strengthen self-responsibility, something educational leaders across the board confirm as a vital goal of ‘21st century learning’.

With organizations like the Harvard University-supported Students At The Center creating infrastructure support for schools introducing personalized learning approaches, and the rise of global movements like ‘DIY’ and ‘Makers’ – both alive and well in SelfDesign – this new model of education has a promising future.

Written by Michael Maser, SelfDesign Learning Foundation and author of Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want