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  • Heather Clayton Staker

5. Personalized Learning

Updated: Mar 9


Is your school personalizing learning?


The adults in your community are not likely to agree on the answer to that question. To begin, what does it even mean to "personalize" learning? And what are the tangible differences an observer might expect to find in a traditional classroom compared to one in which learners are having a tailored experience?


This week's podcast, Personalized Learning with Shawn Rubin, explores the concept of personalized learning. Shawn and I discuss his three signposts of personalization:

  1. Differentiation — School adapts to each learner's needs, context, and abilities.

  2. Pacing — Students no longer move through the content in lockstep with each other.

  3. Agency — Control shifts to the students, who learn to drive their own learning, often collaboratively.

One sixth grade girl in a school that recently shifted to a personalized approach said this of her experience: "Last year I did the teacher's work, but this year I'm doing my work." (Her school leader tells this story at minute 2:18 of this Raising Blended Learners video.)


That sums of personalized learning for me.


What do you think you'd see in a highly personalized school? The following Tuesday Share resource can give you some clues.


Today's Tuesday Share: Highlander Institute Walkthrough Tool PDF

Download this checklist for an excellent tool from the Highlander Institute to help you measure several elements that you might observe in a school that's personalizing learning.


One striking thing about the checklist in the link above is that few people would argue with the elements it lists. Who doesn't want students to collaborate, teachers to encourage student ownership of learning, or teachers to conference with individual students to support them? The key arrival for our generation is online systems that enable schools to implement these great ideas in a manageable, sustainable way that doesn't burn out the staff.


Please leave your comments about your hopes for personalizing learning (scroll to the bottom to see the Comment box). What do you believe? What technological innovations exist already, and what more do we need to solve the problems that inflexible, impersonal schools perpetuate?

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