‘Personalised learning’ is a term often referred to in the world of education. Typically, schools use it to explain how teachers adapt their lessons or approach with students to help them reach their potential. At The British International School Abu Dhabi (BIS Abu Dhabi), we think about personalisation from a more holistic perspective. For us, supporting students academically is crucial, but we achieve that through personalising their entire learning experience, not just their classroom teaching.
We will begin with an example.
On a Sunday morning, students will meet with their class teacher in Primary, and form tutor in Secondary. They will each have spent their weekends in different ways. Perhaps they have had a great time with their family and socialising with friends, or perhaps they haven’t enjoyed their weekend quite as much. Of course, we hope every student comes into school feeling energised and positive, but we don’t know that for certain and we won’t assume it to be the case.
Everyone has an occasional down day, but if a student is experiencing some challenging circumstances outside of school on an ongoing basis, for example, then this might begin to affect how well they do their homework or how capable they are of concentrating in class. It is important that we know enough about the student that we can notice if their classroom habits or behaviours change, and are familiar enough with them to address this in a supportive manner.
Equally, if a student comes into class and is hugely passionate about a hobby outside of school which they can’t wait to tell their friends about, then it is really important that we know about this too and make the effort to talk to them about it. Understanding what makes our students tick is the first step to really engaging them in the classroom and in their extra-curricular activities outside of it.
What this means in terms of ‘personalised learning’
We try to understand what resonates with each student, from their academic interests and aspirations for the future, to their hobbies and what excites them outside of school. By learning about what is ‘normal’ for our students and how they usually behave in school, we can encourage them towards pathways which will help them thrive, but also offer them extra support if we notice they may need it. Every student is on a different learning journey and has a different set of circumstances influencing their progress. Academic outcomes are never linear, they naturally fluctuate and by closely monitoring this journey we can personalise our approach to keep things moving in a positive direction.
Knowing our students on an individual basis also gives us insight into the things which are impacting different year groups or social groups within them, and shape our teaching in acknowledgement of that. For example, if use of social media is particularly prominent in a particular year group and we wish to address how to use it healthily, we might tailor some of our lessons for that year group, whilst other year groups will focus on issues or topics most relevant to them. It means that we are never simply teaching ‘off the shelf’ material, we are shaping our teaching to what matters to the individuals in that class.
Similarly, we appreciate that world issues will impact every individual differently. In this last year alone, our students across the school have encountered challenges they will never have experienced before. It would be unrealistic to expect that they will be unaffected by this, academically, emotionally and socially. Our relationship with our students and our history of speaking with them on an individual basis means we can recognise when there are issues like this which need to be addressed. We can open up the conversation and help students to process what is going on. We frequently incorporate topics around culture, world news and debate into our teaching so that our students feel supported through big conversations and can discuss them in a positive environment.
Find out more
Visit BIS Abu Dhabi’s website for more information on what is being studied in your child’s year group and how our teachers help them to achieve their best: The British International School Abu Dhabi (nordangliaeducation.com)