Walking the newly renovated halls of York House School, a Vancouver school for girls, director of admissions Mabel Lim describes the need to nurture the different learning styles of the students by getting to know them as individuals.
"I think all of our teachers have a genuine commitment to want to know that particular child and understand what works best for that particular child," Ms. Lim says.
But linking learning styles to individual students starts before they are even accepted into the school.
At York House, like many Canadian private schools, prospective students are interviewed in the admissions process to get a sense of what type of personality they possess, explains Ms. Lim.
"Through the interview process we certainly do note what type of child they seem to be," she adds, admitting that these interview situations are not always authentic, but it starts a dialogue between the school and the family.
Parents shopping around for their child's education will often ask themselves: Is this the best school? But the question should really be: Is this the right school? Education experts say that considering and co-ordinating both the personality of the child and the personality of the private school is paramount to school selection, but it's often overlooked.
For Ms. Lim, despite taking note of a prospective student's personality, there is no checklist of character traits required to enter the halls of this all-girls school. She says the different students they have at York House are what make the school's environment creative and interesting.
"For us we actually do make sure that we select a range of girls. We are not always looking for the Type A personality, loves to talk and that kind of thing. In a classroom we need all types to make a successful environment for all of them, so when we select we do our best to make it a diverse group," Ms. Lim says.
There is no formula for which personality types will excel in private school versus public school or large versus small schools, says educational consultant Elaine Danson, but factoring in a student's personality is something she always recommends to her clients during the selection process.
"Ask yourself: Are there things within the school that will help the child develop?" says Ms. Danson, listing off athletics, debate club and other co-curricular activities.
One misconception Ms. Danson often encounters is the idea that more introverted students will automatically excel in a smaller classroom environment. "He could go to a bigger school; maybe intermediate grades are bunched together and there's great opportunities for socializing that the child would be interested in – even though they're an introvert – that are very structured that would allow the child to come out [of their shell] more."
Canada isn't the only country encouraging parents and administrators to factor in personality during private school selection. An e-guide developed by the Australian Scholarships Group, a member-based education funding organization, outlines the importance of a child's personality and a successful environment.
A chapter entitled "Knowing your child – the secret to choosing a school" urges parents to first make a list of their child's characteristics because "if you know and understand your child's strengths, needs and character, you'll be able to find schools that offer the best matches for him or her."
But Christina Rinaldi, educational psychologist from the University of Alberta, says factoring in a student's character is only one part of the equation – and sometimes it's a luxury.
"I'd like to say that there is a formula that people use, but there are so many reasons for what motivates them to make those choices," she says.
For instance, families with several children may not want to send their children to different schools despite specific interests.
Or their choices may be limited by something as simple as geography, explains Dr. Rinaldi. "I think it does change from city to city, urban versus rural, what your choices are and it really changes the conversation I think for parents depending on where they live and what kind of choices they have."
RELATED: Customized Education
"The greatest risk to education worldwide is that we are going to continue to teach the way we were taught," says Anne-Marie Kee, executive director, CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools).
The solution? Custom learning.
Customization is something society has been moving toward more and more over the past decade. Products and services are becoming more tailored to the users needs – everything from smart phones and cars to fast food orders. So why not personalized learning?
A metaphor used at a recent conference by former Rotman School of Business dean Roger Martin illustrates Ms. Kee's point. "[Mr. Martin] gave the great example of coffee. We used to just order a coffee according to size and then put in our own cream and sugar. Then Tim Hortons came along and we said things like 'double, double.' And now we've got Starbucks and it takes about 30 words to order your coffee … and we like that."
"In education, we have to similarly personalize and customize our approach," she adds.
The 2013 Horizon report, published annually by the New Media Consortium, emphasizes this new wave of education as the improved path for schooling. It outlines the need for new technologies to help provide "more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction."
And while the report acknowledges the gap between the customization goal and the current tools available, "the notion that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are neither effective nor acceptable for today's diverse students is generally accepted among K-12 educators."