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The Principles of Personalized Assessment

January 25, 2017

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There have been many a blog, statement, learning forum and staff meeting at BISC Lincoln Park that contains the phrase ‘personalized learning’. Teachers, both in our school and around the world, are regularly questioned on this concept: “How is it possible to focus the learning on the interests of all twenty students in the class?”

The simple answer – it’s not. Personalized learning is not about linking Math lessons to the latest Minecraft game or writing biographies on the current number one pop star. In practical terms, it is focusing in a more structured way on each child in order to meet them where they are, with what they need, when they need it.

Personalized learning begins with an in-depth understanding of each learner’s needs, and then seeks to provide relevant and challenging opportunities that support them as they progress in their learning. At BISC Lincoln Park, it is our principled assessment practices that drive this forward. At the start of the 2016-17 academic year, we announced a shift in our assessment principles, from the traditional ‘one size fits all’ levels system to a more robust, comprehensive and individualized approach: Individual Learning Records (ILRs).

The movement in ideas about ability and assessment that have come with such an innovative change means that our teachers have become experts in assessment in a way that they have not had to before. We have been encouraged to innovate the questions we pose to each individual child and actively consider the way in which they are presented. In all, we have shifted the purpose of assessment from a ‘best-fit’ model to tracking elements of the curriculum that each individual child has adequately achieved, whilst highlighting those areas which require more attention. This is the true meaning of personalized learning and we at BISC Lincoln Park are successfully achieving it.  

Emma Scott is a Year 6 teacher, Assessment Leader, and Aspiring Leader too.