Personalized Learning: Playlist Based Learning

Updated: Oct 15



When we are asked why we joined education we always talk about why we think the education system failed us growing up. When we were young, we were not great students because we were not great at the only skill that mattered back then: Memorization.


When we joined education, we promised ourselves that we were going to show the world that other kind of education was possible. We promised ourselves that we were going to give students a voice and provide them with what they need to cover their needs and match their learning style.


No everyone learns in the same way, there are students that learn better by memorizing a book, other students learn better by watching a video or completing a challenge. We cannot provide all the students with the same material since they do not learn in the same way.

An average of 23.1 students fill the typical American elementary-school classroom, and each has different needs and learning styles. One of the biggest challenges we face as teachers is meeting these needs and providing a good learning environment for every student.


1. Playlist-Based Instruction

The “Playlist-Based Instruction” is a personalized learning approach that creates a list of activities focused on specific content and matched to the student’s needs. In this approach, every student is learning the same content through different activities that match their learning styles.


For example: Students are learning about natural disasters and the teacher creates four different activities that are focused on how volcanos are formed. Each of these activities matches a different learning style (following the VARK model): visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.



At the end of the day, students will need to create their own playlist with different activities created by the teacher. For example: A student decides to do the auditory activity to learn about why volcanos are formed and the visual activity to learn about how earthquakes shape the earth’s surface.


2. Playlist-Based Learning and Self-Management

Normally, the activities designed by the teacher for this approach are self-paced. In this way, each student may be working on a different activity being the teacher the facilitator that helps students that are struggling to learn the content. Therefore, this approach is particularly good to foster self-management skills in the classroom.

The Class of 2030 report from Microsoft Education shows that self-management, the ability to set and work toward one’s personal and academic goals, manage stress, and stay motivated, is a top priority for students globally. Students want and need to be independent and make their own decisions. We wanted to provide our students with a program that helps them develop self-management.

In this approach, students will need to organize their time and the order that they want to complete their activities being in charge of their learning journey. While organizing their weekly schedule, students need to self-reflect in their ability to complete assignments on time and think if they need extra time to complete a specific assignment because they struggle in that particular area.


Student A may spend thirty minutes on a math activity and twenty minutes on a visual science assignment while Student B may need an hour to complete the math activity and just ten minutes to complete the auditory science assignment.


Also, Student C may decide to do science first because he is really passionate about it while Student D decide to do science the last day of the week because he struggles with it and needs extra time.

The time needed and the order that students use to complete the activities are key factors to foster self-management and spark self-reflection. In addition, getting to know how they learn better (learning style) is a crucial factor for them to succeed in the future.

When following this approach, students are happier because they are learning in the way they like, deciding what resources they want to use and managing their schedule.


3. Activities outcomes

When we talk about Playlist-Based Learning instruction sometimes we only refer to how the students are getting the content focusing just on the learning input (VARK model) but we often forget to talk about the activity outcome and how students need to have a choice in this matter too.


The way students communicate what they learn or present the result of their activities needs to be personalized too. If we are learning about volcanos, we need to give students different options to present what they learned about volcanos such as create a puppet show, record a Flipgrid, write a song, paint a picture, create an infographic, make a PowerPoint…


4. Our Playlist-Based Learning Model


Last year, we wrote a blogpost for Microsoft on “How to foster self-management skills and personalized learning in an elementary setting with Microsoft Tools”. In this blog post, we talk in detail about how we apply the playlist-based learning approach in our classes.

5. Engaging ways to present a Playlist

We always create a microsite using Genially to present playlists to our students in an engaging way. This year, we created a Netflix platform where students can find all the activities they need to complete each week.




Also, there are many other ways to present playlists in an engaging way. Check this blogpost by David Ruiz who designed a Spotify template for this matter



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