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34. "Personalize" the content to captivate students

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34. "Personalize" the content to captivate students

Is there a more important maxim from the students' point of view? All learning and understanding happens within your students' brains. The learning and understanding must be meaningful for them and hopefully useful for them in the real world. When planning lessons and while teaching your students, keep asking yourself if the content is personal enough, or meaningful enough, for your students. Will your lesson plan captivate your students today? If not, redesign. Old school thinking suggest that teachers know best; new school thinking suggest that students know best. Students may not have the knowledge that you want to give them yet but only they can make that personal connection with the material being covered… so, why must students be captivated? As discussed with other maxims, emotions fuel and guide all learning. Moreover, the RAS (Reticular Activating System) in the lower brain area decides what we should pay attention to or ignore (Willis, 2010).

According to Willis (2010), the RAS makes us alert about (1) physical needs, such as hunger sign or danger signs, (2) executive decisions such as your own plans of the day, or other consequential decisions that you have made, and (3) novelty. As teachers, we all know that repetition and recycling of past material is necessary in most cases. But this can be very, very boring. We all have heard students blurt out, "…but, we already did this yesterday!" Unless students are personally motivated to re-learn what they had just studied yesterday, it is already an uphill battle. How can the students be captivated? Making the learning "personal" is key. Find ways to let the students be egocentric about and with the material. This will captivate them because it is now about them. They now have ownership of the material.

Q. Considering that we are 'massively social creatures', it is natural for humans to want to get personal at some level. What can you do in your current classes to make them more personalized for each student?



Hi everyone, 
Below is a link to a Guardian article titled, "Curiosity Improves Learning by Rewarding the Brain."

I think it suits this maxim, however, should anyone think I've got it wrong, please do let me know!

Happy reading!


334. "Personalize" the content to captivate students Empty Personalizing Content on Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:03 pm


There are a few regular practices in class that I use to support personalized leaning.  The students always sit in groups of 4 or 5, facing each other.  As we move through the materials, the students are always encouraged to share their answers, or even brainstorm their answers together.  Every couple activities, there are questions directed at the students for their personal answers.  For example, they are prompted to talk/write about their favorite music artists, movies, their families, high schools, friends, relationships, and desired travel destinations.  Some of the activities in class also require students to agree upon or rank certain items.  For example, students may be given a list of cities around the world and will be asked to rank them from best to worst honeymoon destinations in the world.   In this way, they are invited to share their opinions with a small familiar group of people. 
These are a couple general examples of how we try to personalize our curriculum to our students.  However, I think there are a lot of areas we could still improve on.  Every year, our department tries more and more to move toward a standardized curriculum and creates more and more standardized tests and assessments. 
I am beginning to think that biology-based pedagogies are not always compatible with standardized testing.   There are so many ups and downs in the learning process.  Not only that, but teaching/learning is an interpersonal process that cannot always be controlled or premeditated.  To truly personalize a learning experience, the teacher would need the opportunity to observe the spontaneous behavior of their students, and engage their curiosity based on their interests and cognitive skills. 

I read that article and really enjoyed it.  The assertion of having better memory of items the subjects reported to be curious about was not so ground breaking (it was one of those, ‘yeah, of course!’ discoveries), but improved memories on the unrelated information that they were shown while their curiosity was piqued was very interesting.  I suppose this would have implications for all the information in their periphery (signs or posters in the room, music playing, writing on the board).  Thank you for sharing. Smile

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