Educators know that each student learns in different ways – some learn effectively through theoretical analysis, while other students flourish with practical knowledge applications. These differences in learning styles have been known to teachers for many years however, the challenges around teaching structure or lack of access to resources has often limited the ability to embrace more effective teaching and learning methods.
However, advances in technology are transforming the education environment. Not only are these advances increasing awareness of the limitations of traditional teaching methods, but they also bear the digital tools, such as personalised learning resources, that will help teachers unlock students’ full potential. Personalised learning is becoming the gold standard in pedagogy, and with greater student engagement and higher grades, its quick uptake in the US, Australia, Europe, and now the Middle East, makes it the latest global education trend.
Traditional teaching methods
Developed in the late 1960s by behavioural psychologists, direct learning is the traditional teaching method. It is based on the idea of providing teachers with a step-by-step and lesson-by-lesson approach aimed at educational quality control and ensuring the correct delivery of the curriculum. At a practical level, direct instruction and other variations, such as explicit instruction, students are expected to learn a set of prescribed materials which is then followed by assessment tasks and tests that will inform how the students are regrouped for the next stage of education. It is, prescribed teaching and prescribed learning, that undoubtedly has some advantages, but treating students as a homogenous group and failing to recognise the idiosyncrasies of student learning has been problematised.
The pedagogical revolution
Queue the global pedagogical revolution, a movement that responds to these shortcomings and is based on the ethos that there is no single effective teaching strategy. This movement advocates that the education system needs to be redefined and break free from the rigid teacher-student relationship, where the teacher possesses the power and knowledge, and students are passive learners. This shift in pedagogy echoes the sentiment of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018 that stated, “schooling is not the same as learning” and has subsequently witnessed the increased prevalence of teaching methods that adjust the curriculum, teaching styles, and learning environments to each student’s needs and ambitions. As the latest region to embrace this methodology, schools in the Middle East are elevating standards by introducing personalised learning in order to remain competitive in the international education market and deliver work-ready and well-rounded students.
The power of personalised learning
For many educators and students around the world, including schools throughout the Middle East, the hero of this narrative is personalised learning- a transformative teaching method that tailors the learning materials and pace to reflect each student’s needs and abilities. Personalised learning has strong historical roots that arguably date back to Aristotle but has gained significant momentum as part of education’s digital transformation, as resources that provide instantaneous feedback, differentiate lessons, and focus on skills growth become more readily available. Resource limitations no longer inhibit educators inspired to deliver this pedagogy, and as a result, students and teachers are becoming increasingly empowered to move away from direct instruction. Instead, as we have seen at schools in Dubai, Radhwa, and Abu Dhabi, educators are moving towards discovery-based learning and conceptual layering that provides students with greater freedom over the choice of learning materials, style, and pace of learning. Subsequently, this paradigm shift to a more holistic education ecosystem provides students and teachers across the Middle East with a more enriched and engaging educational experience that lays a strong foundation for the future of learning.
As with all revolutions, personalised learning has critics who argue that these resources provide students with an impersonal and robotic learning experience. However, contrary to these fears, personalised learning does not remove human intelligence from the school environment. Rather, it extends it, and by empowering teachers with effective learning resources, student engagement can increase, grades can improve, and autonomous learning and student curiosity can be fostered – all of which are key to unlocking students’ full potential.
By: Gavin McLean
Gavin McLean, International Business Development Director, Edmentum
Gavin McLean has over 25 years’ experience in global strategy, business development, digital transformation, brand curation and go-to-market planning and implementation across the complete value chain of international learning.
He has held a range of senior positions with major international education companies including Macmillan Education, Cengage and National Geographic Learning. He has also worked across K-12, college, academic and research as a consultant for both private- and public-sector clients.
He has particular expertise in curriculum reform and capacity-building projects in developing countries around the world, including across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America. In this capacity, he has also been an advocate for universal access to education and provision for students in the public sector.