Education’s Mona Lisa Effect

We all know that celebrating diversity in educational institutions can be greatly rewarding. However, teaching a full classroom with students from conflicting backgrounds and with different learning abilities can become extremely challenging for educators. How can you personalise learning effectively so that all students achieve their full potential?

Also known as personalisation or student-centred learning, educational programs specifically developed to address the diverse needs of individual students has been proven to work in increasing student performance.

It’s extremely important that every student feels like the lesson has been specifically developed to meet their own personal learning needs, but before educators can tailor the way they teach to fit the needs of a diverse group of students, they first need to establish what these needs are.

Once the needs of the students are captured, the teacher becomes like the famous mysterious woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Mona Lisa.” No matter from which angle you look at the Mona Lisa, her eyes will always appear to look directly at you. This is what teachers should strive towards – making an individual student feel like the teacher has carefully planned today’s lesson specifically for them. Taking each student on a learning journey where they can achieve their fullest potential. This is not an easy task and takes careful planning, starting with individual assessment.

Capturing data on every child’s learning abilities are imperative to all educators in order to personalise lessons. Most schools collect and use a triangulated dataset on every child. Making use of robust, standardised data collecting on students’ aptitude, attainment and attitudes. Understanding students’ ability to learn, attitude towards lessons and their eagerness to achieve goals will help teachers personalise learning. Tending to these needs will assure that there aren’t any learners who falls through the cracks as years go on.  


Some learners have the natural aptitude for learning words, while others grasp numbers faster. Knowing which students are struggling in what areas will help teachers adapt lesson plans. Challenge a learner with a natural aptitude for maths by giving them tougher problems and extra work. This will motivate them to reach their full potential instead of becoming bored or even worse, becoming demotivated. A learner who doesn’t have a natural aptitude for maths should not be left behind. Explain work in simpler terms and maybe even pair them with a natural maths learner, both students will show learning progress and feel valued.

Through strategic lesson planning, specifically avoiding to put focus on lower and higher aptitude learners and including students from the whole spectrum will give the whole class a sense of involvement.


Attitude is a fundamental characteristic that can help learners achieve success or failure in life. We’ve all heard the following statements from colleagues: “That student has a terrible attitude!” or “She’s got a great attitude towards her work!” Assessing what type of attitude students have towards certain subjects can be valuable to teacher’s personalised lesson plan. A learner who loves English Literature may hate Geography. It’s the educator’s task to find new and innovative ways to motivate learners who have a bad attitude towards lessons to have a better attitude.

Getting to know your students by asking them questions about themselves or having some open discussions can lift the mood in class and maybe even put them in a better mood. As an educator we want all our students to succeed in life. This also mean that we should be able to adapt and try to understand why they have good or bad attitudes.  


Achieving goals is what education is all about – being the best you can be. It’s disheartening to see a student with immense talent not reach their full potential or seeing a student fail because somewhere they just couldn’t care enough to achieve their goals. It’s the educators challenge to motivate students to achieve their goals. Goals don’t have to be as high as the Empire State Building. Setting reachable goals for individuals can be a great motivator. “Joshua, you got 3/10 for your spelling test this week, next week let’s see if you can achieve a score of 6/10, I know you can!” And when Joshua achieves this goal – commend him!

No harm was ever done by some healthy competition. As some learners may be more competitive than others, it’s the educators challenge to find ways to motivate passive students to reach their goals.

You are probably thinking: “How in the world will I be able to tend to all of my student’s individual needs?” This is exactly why we call it the Mona Lisa effect. Being an educator is not just standing in front of a class full of pupils and doing the same lesson plan over and over again. Being an educator is to be actively involved in student’s learning process. Making sure that you help and guide them to reach their own potential.

Children are all different, and being able to adjust and adapt as a teacher will be extremely rewarding. By knowing your student’s strengths and weaknesses will empower you to get the absolute best out of them. Implementing the Mona Lisa effect will maximise achievement and well-being of every individual learner in the school.  

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