On Individuality: Personalized Learning and Precision Medicine

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Written by Rick Kubina

In education, we cherish the individual (and rightfully so). For example, the term “Personalized Learning” refers to a wide range of educational programs, instructional practices, learning experiences, and different support strategies for addressing the varied learning needs and interests of students.

The United States Department of Education has defined Personalized Learning, also called Competency-Based Learning, as “a structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning.”

For many years educators have tried different teaching methods, educational structures, and class arrangements in order to promote individualization. At the heart of individualization lies the idea that by addressing each student’s unique needs, academic success, and personal fulfillment will rise; all noble goals worth pursuing.

How might the science of individual measurement, Precision Teaching, view treating an individual?

Individualization = individual measures

We could talk about many ways Precision Teaching addresses individuality. But let’s start with measurement.

Every student will learn at a different rate or speed. Precision Teaching measures the rate with a celeration line and a metric called a celeration value. Celeration specifies the speed and direction of learning. As an example, a student who learns his math facts at a x1.4 celeration is growing by 40% each week (when measured on a daily Standard Celeration Chart or SCC).

Every other student in the room will have their own celeration values precisely depicting the speed at which the student has or has not learned their math facts. How liberating to use the science of measurement to uncover the pace of each individual’s learning rate! A teacher can make discrete adjustments for students who have not learned quickly in a given content area or skill.

The celeration line also offers an accurate projection of future learning. By extending the celeration line, the student and teacher can see how long it will take to meet the academic goal. This projection line empowers students and educators to understand the rate of learning, and to make decisions to alter or increase that rate. Celeration treats each individual with dignity and respect by providing a visual representation of every single students own learning rate.

Bounce on the SCC represents the efficiency by which an individual student learns something. The larger the envelop, the more variable the learning. Variable learning indicates inefficiencies with the instructional program—areas where the program or environment can be adjusted for the individual.

By measuring bounce for each learner a teacher can quickly ascertain how productive the instructional program is for each student. Imagine having an actual number telling you the ease at which your student has learned. Well, you don’t have to imagine if you use the SCC!

Real science, real individualization

Health science measures body temperature and can definitively state if a person has a fever (and the severity of the fever through quantification). Furthermore, everyone has a pulse, and the quantified beats per minute tells the physician if the person has an elevated (Tachycardia) or depressed (Bradycardia) heart rate. Meaningful health metrics serve as key indicators for the health of an individual.

In fact, “precision health” takes a big-data approach to disease prevention and detection, focusing on the various factors that help maintain health throughout life, according to Stanford Medicine. And “precision medicine” has emerged as a data-driven approach individualized recommendations. According to the National Institutes of Health, it takes to “into account individual differences in genes, environment, and lifestyle” to deliver customized medical decisions.Likewise, the science of Precision Teaching expands our vision beyond conventional boundaries and allows us to see farther. It uses both big data and personal metrics. Celeration shows each individual’s speed of learning, and bounce shows each individual’s efficiency of learning. Charting on a  Standard Celeration Chart produces student-specific visual patterns of behavior—and these sensitive, precise metrics for individual decision-making are the pursuit of personalized learning.