PSPs utilize a student’s learning styleCreating a PSP requires students to understand how they learn. The VARK model describes four types of learners: visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic. Visual learners tend to prefer pictures, diagrams, or other visual aids; auditory learners do best if new topics are explained aloud or discussed in a group; reading-writing preference learners prefer written texts; and kinesthetic learners do best if they can watch a demonstration, try something out on their own, or work with hands-on models. To help determine learning preference, students should consider which classes or assignments they’ve excelled at, or which concepts they had trouble understanding until they approached it through a different method. Remember, too, that multiple learning styles can suit a student — it doesn’t have to be just one! Personalized study plans that integrate preferred learning styles can reduce study time and increase confidence, as well as help instructors approach teaching methods, assignments, and group work with the student.
PSPs tap into student motivationStudents also need to understand what motivates them in a task. While some students respond well to inner expectations and enjoy taking ownership over their study plans, other students may need to have deadlines and check-ins with teachers or tutors. Still, others may need creative freedom or to find ways to make the studying fun. Students should take time to assess which approaches are hardest or easiest for them and use that to identify the best way to stay motivated and then, incorporate that into the plan.
PSPs help define goalsPersonalized study plans can streamline the study process by asking students to think about their end goals and focus their efforts on achieving them. For example, a student hoping to eventually become a research scientist may take a different approach than a student who simply wants to improve his or her science ACT score, and knowing the end goal will help teachers, parents, and students make effective choices about where to focus effort. PSPs can also work effectively across disciplines to help students choose the best combination of classes or do interdisciplinary projects that align with their interests.
PSPs allow progress tracking and improvement assessmentPSPs can also be helpful as a supplement to grades and allow students to see improvement even between assignments. Students can track their more qualitative goals of understanding or see progress in other terms, like hours spent or vocabulary learned. Since PSPs can go into detail on a weekly or monthly level, the student’s improvement can be assessed regularly and altered if necessary.
PSPs help guide communicationLastly, PSPs are a great way to ensure helpful communication between students, parents, and teachers. Having to articulate goals, current skill levels, and expectations means that all parties are on the same page about the student’s experience, and it gives students the opportunity to communicate concerns or performance pressures, like too much homework or extracurricular demands, while teachers and parents can learn more about each other’s expectations and methods. Personalized study plans allow students to assess their current abilities, think about future goals and how to reach them, and take ownership in creating their learning environment. Parents, teachers, tutors and students can all benefit and coordinate to help students achieve their goals by creating one together.
Hilary Gan is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.