Our Blog

CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Personalized Learning and English Language Learners—A perfect fit!

The number of ELL students in public schools is increasing, and the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to reinforce the need for an increase in academic success of English Language Learners – and strong accountability measures to support it. As a result, school districts are always looking for ways to better serve their students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs, while working to ensure high levels of engagement and motivation to learn among all their students.

Since the turn of the century, we have asked schools to prepare students for college- and career-readiness through “21st Century expectations.” During the same period of time, schools have been faced with budgets that won’t balance, an inability to keep up with—or afford—technology innovation, and a system of secondary and postsecondary education in need of fundamental reworking. So how can we expect schools to meet the needs of their English Language Learners under these conditions?

At CCE, we believe that personalized learning offers systems and strategies for making steady improvements in the instruction and learning of ELLs. More specifically, personalized learning may improve student achievement, increase high school graduation rates, and lay the foundation for post-high school success for all students.

Personalized learning requires “unlearning” certain precedents including education such as:

  • teachers as keepers of knowledge being unlearned to teachers being facilitators of learning
  • entire classes moving through material together being unlearned to students having choice on the what, when and where of their learning (while maintaining school and district curriculum and committing to meeting state standards).

The latter “unlearning” describes the adoption of personalized learning pathways which would provide English Language Learners (and all students!) access to teacher time, meaningful uses of technology, small group work, and mainstream classroom experiences since all students, not just ELLs, are working at their own pace with personalized instructional experiences for their English Proficiency level.

Just imagine the learning possible in a classroom where blended learning includes station rotations—one group working individually on adaptive software that adjusts to proficiency levels, one group working in a small, collaborative group on project-based learning, and another teacher facilitated group for English Language Development (ELD). This model of personalized learning ensures that each ELL student will receive instruction based on their current level of English proficiency. Additionally, the access to technology in the classroom enables ELLs to practice speaking, writing, and reading English with a variety of tools that speed up ELD.

As a second language learner and educator myself, this combination of access to meaningful technology and shifts in learning culture where individual students’ needs are met and all students can learn at high levels of rigor and engagement, is something I wish I could have had access to in school. I’m excited the possibilities personalize learning can bring to ELLs and the doors to success it can open.