Exploring Student Interests for Personalized Learning

Exploring Student Interests for Personalized Learning

Most of what I am reading has defined personalized learning as learning that incorporates student needs, student interests, and student preferences. For many, there is no confusion around these variables, however, I became interested in student interests because I recently encountered a student who did not know what he was interested in, as he was not well read and he focused much of his time on playing video games. This intrigued me, as I thought about ways teachers could help students cultivate interests when students have limited interests in sanctioned subject matter.

I started researching this matter in the early part of the academic year and I came across a chapter in volume two of Instructional-design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, which linked student interests to motivation. “Cultivating interests and the desire to cultivate interests, based on the joy or utility they provide” is directly linked to motivational development (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999, p. 494). Martin and Reigeluth (1999) further noted that motivational development is linked to Affective Education. They defined Affective Education as education for personal-social development, feelings, emotions, morals, and ethics. What is particularly important about Affective Education is the discovery that it may actually dominate cognitive learning, and “serve as the mind’s primary architect” (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999, p. 488). So what does this have to do with cultivating student interests? Since student interests are linked to self-motivation, and motivational development is linked to the affective domain, then I believe that educators are obligated to consider incorporating objectives from the affective domain for students with limited interests in sanctioned content matter.

Affective Objectives

Martin and Reigeluth (1999) argued that, “attitudes are the crux of all the affective dimensions of development. An attitude can be defined as a state of readiness or as a learned predisposition to behave in a consistent way. It is made up of cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements” (p. 496). Hence, teachers can help cultivate student interests byway of attitude training. Attitude training involves focusing on the non-cognitive and non-technical skills, also known as soft skills.

  • Communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork capability
  • Negotiating skills
  • Self-management
  • Time management
  • Conflict management
  • Cultural awareness
  • Responsibility
  • Etiquette and good manners
  • Courtesy
  • Self-esteem
  • Sociability
  • Integrity / Honesty
  • Empathy
  • Work ethic

When students have soft skills, then they have the attitude necessary for a learning predisposition that will make them available for developing motivation and interests in sanctioned subjects. So how best can attitude training be implemented in the classroom? And how does it link to personalized learning? The answer to both of these questions is Project-based Learning (PBL). “Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge” (BIE, 2018). Below is a list of steps for getting started with PBL.

  1. Teacher uses standards to define the learning
  2. Teacher plans an entry event into the project
  3. Students are presented with a driving question
  4. Students generate their need to knows based on the driving question
  5. Teacher helps students to map out the project and create partnerships with stakeholders
  6. Instruction is planned based on student needs
  7. Project is carried out and evaluated

In sum, PBL is the vehicle for ushering in personalized learning and incorporating the much neglected affective domain of learning. I would also argue that PBL can recapture those students who are academically dormant and uninterested in sanctioned learning.

Reference:

Buck Institute for Education (2018). What is Project Based Learning retrieved from https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl October 12, 2018.

Martin, B.L. and Reigeluth, C.M. (1999). Affective Education and the Affective Domain: Implications for Instructional-Design Theories and Models in Reigeluth, C. M. (2012). Instructional-design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Volume II. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

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