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By Stacey Childress, and Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Schools around the country are moving from traditional instructional approaches to personalized learning for students.Personalized learning happens when teachers form a powerful one-on-one connection with their students and tailor lessons based on their individual needs, skills, and interests. When students are able to take the time they need to truly master a concept before moving on, they are more motivated and engaged. Teachers have known this for a long time, and researchers have demonstrated over and over how large an impact personalized learning can have on student outcomes. In fact, the average student who receives one-to-one, mastery-based instruction performs at the same level as the top 2 percent of students who receive traditional group instruction.Of course, it’s not feasible to have one great teacher for every student. But by supporting teachers with emerging instructional technologies, schools are trying to create the equivalent of oneto- one instruction and free up time for teachers to engage more deeply with every student. Great digital tools can help extend the reach and effectiveness of teachers so that more students get what they need, when they need it, so they have every opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we envision a future in which students’ learning experiences will be markedly different than they are today in several ways: • On any day of the year, students will be able to see how they are doing, where they want to be, and how they might get there. They will feel ownership of their learning and motivated to succeed. They will collaborate and connect with their peers in ways that reflect how they live now and how they will work in the future. • Schools will be designed to optimize time, pace and instructional methods to make the most of teachers’ time and to create learning paths that work best for each student. Teachers and other adults will have more diverse roles in and out of schools based on their strengths, from coaches and guides to content experts.