Education Letter to the Editor

Understanding Personalization

January 15, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The recent special report (“Personalized Learning: 4 Big Questions Shaping the Movement,” November 7, 2018) raises four key issues that deserve clarification. As leaders of the AASA Personalized Learning national cohort, we offer the following reflections.

First, personalization is a teaching and learning process that addresses the strengths and needs of individual learners. Carefully monitoring student progress against clearly defined standards, personalization ensures that every learner’s academic, emotional, and physical needs are understood and accommodated. Personalized schools and districts emphasize a balanced approach to progress monitoring, using a range of authentic assessments rather than single data points like standardized tests.

Second, like every major education movement, personalization can be fraught with stereotypes. The idea that it is “impersonal” reflects a misunderstanding of its central purpose. Personalized classrooms allow for high levels of interaction, discourse, and real-world application. Teachers use cooperative learning, technology, and project-based learning to encourage peer feedback and authentic investigation and research.

Also, personalization is not a model of teaching where students determine everything. Teachers must scaffold the learning process—from initial modeling and coaching-oriented feedback to a gradual release of responsibility to students. Voice and choice are building blocks of effective personalized learning. Without sustained student input and feedback, their talents, creativity, and efficacy can be overlooked or negated.

Finally, we agree that a “canned” instructional design is at odds with addressing the unique strengths and challenges of every learner. Professional development for personalization requires action research and coaching that is site-based and collegial—not pre-structured in a kit or program. Many companies are becoming more sensitive to integrating cultural responsiveness, differentiation, and performance assessments and projects. However, the process of personalizing schools is deeply iterative, collegial, and challenging—with no single program or approach adequate to ensure a personalized classroom.

Daniel A. Domenech

Executive Director

AASA, the School Superintendents Association

Alexandria, Va.

Mort Sherman

Associate Executive Director

AASA, the School Superintendents Association

Alexandria, Va.

Gail Pletnick

Retired Superintendent

Surprise, Ariz.

Valerie Truesdale

Associate Superintendent

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte, N.C.

A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2019 edition of Education Week as Understanding Personalization


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)