Special Report
Personalized Learning Infographic

Personalized Learning: A Working Definition

October 20, 2014 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A group of philanthropies and school and technology advocacy groups, with contributions from educators, compiled a four-part “working definition” of the attributes of personalized learning. They also identified critical questions for K-12 officials to consider in implementing personalized learning.

Competency-Based Progression
Each student’s progress toward clearly-defined goals is continually assessed. A student advances and earns credit as soon as he/she demonstrates mastery.

Flexible Learning Environments
Student needs drive the design of the learning environment. All operational elements—staffing plans, space utilization and time allocation—respond and adapt to support students in achieving their goals.

Personal Learning Paths
All students are held to clear, high expectations, but each student follows a customized path that responds and adapts based on his/her individual learning progress, motivations, and goals.

Learner Profiles
Each student has an up-to-date record of his/her individual strengths, needs, motivations, and goals.

Ongoing Assessment
In what ways and how frequently should we assess each student’s level of mastery within the dimensions that we believe are essential for his/her success?
Operational Alignment
How might we deliver all of the learning experiences that our students need, with the resources we have available? What flexibility is in the design to enable us to respond and adapt to changing student needs?
Personalized Learning Plans
How can we ensure that each student has a learning plan that takes into account his/her strengths, changing needs, motivations, and goals?
Strengths & Needs
How do we capture each student’s current level of mastery within each of the dimensions that we believe are essential for his/her success (e.g. academic standards, skills)? How can we highlight students’ academic gaps to draw attention to their individual needs?
Individual Advancement
Can individual students pursue new learning experiences as soon as they have mastered the prerequisite content? How can students attain course credit based on mastery?
Staffing & Roles
In what ways might we structure teacher and other educator roles to support our instructional vision? What flexibility is needed to enable our staff to respond and adapt to changing student needs?
Varied Learning Experiences (Modalities)
What types of experiences (e.g. complex tasks, experiential learning) do students need to achieve their goals? What are the ideal methods for delivering (e.g. small group instruction, one-on-one tutoring, online learning) these experiences?
Motivations
How might we support each student in understanding and articulating his/her interests and aspirations?
Time Allocation
In what ways might we maximize the time each student spends pursuing his/her goals? How might our student and staff schedules respond and adapt to changing student needs?
Student Ownership
In what ways might we enable students to develop and manage their own learning paths?
Information & Feedback
In what ways and how frequently might we provide timely, actionable information and feedback to students, teachers, and families?
Space Utilization
How can the design of the physical space support our instructional vision? Can we use spaces beyond our walls, and if so, how?
Goals
How might we support each student in setting personalized goals within each dimension that we believe is essential for his/her success? In what ways and how frequently might we ask students to reflect on their progress and adjust their goals accordingly?
Grouping & Connections
How should we group students to enable the varied learning experiences we hope to offer and modify to their changing needs? In what ways might we facilitate personal connections among students, and between students and adults?

See Also

School & District Management What Is 'Personalized Learning'? Educators Seek Clarity
Education technology advocates, philanthropies, and others are trying to create a clearer definition of what qualifies as "personalized learning," one of the most popular terms in education today.
Sean Cavanagh, October 20, 2014
9 min read

Sources: Developed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Afton Partners, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, CEE Trust, the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, Charter School Growth Fund, EDUCAUSE, iNACOL, the Learning Accelerator, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Silicon Schools, and educators

Design & Visualization: Stacey Decker

Coverage of personalized learning and systems leadership in Education Week and its special reports is supported in part by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

A version of this article appeared in the October 22, 2014 edition of Education Week as Personalized Learning: A Working Definition

Events

Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

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

Personalized Learning Spotlight Spotlight on Personalized Learning in 2022
This Spotlight will help you evaluate the debate between mastery and seat-time, tailored instruction for individual students, and more.
Personalized Learning Why Personalized Learning Works in Some Schools, But Not in Others. What Test Scores Say
Educators worry that changing up instruction to better fit students' interests could jeopardize their school's progress on state tests.
6 min read
Image shows two children ages 5 to 7 years old and a teacher, an African-American woman, holding a digital tablet up, showing it to the girl sitting next to her. They are all wearing masks, back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
E+/Getty
Personalized Learning From Our Research Center Personalized Learning’s Big Test Is Coming This School Year
As schools try to repair the damage of COVID-19 and racial injustice, it's now or never for the much-hyped personalized learning movement.
16 min read
Gia Leon, a student at Odyssey STEM Academy, poses for a portrait at Hollydale Park on July 15, 2021, in South Gate, California.
Gia Leon, 17, credits the personalized learning program at Odyssey STEM Academy in Lakewood, Calif., for helping build her academic and personal confidence and giving her an opportunity to experience the real world of work.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
Personalized Learning Download Personalized Learning & Pandemic Recovery: 6 Big Considerations
Software alone is not the answer to getting personalized learning back on track, but popular new forms of schooling could help.
1 min read