Wednesday / July 24

10 Trends to Personalize Learning

Personalized Learning

Contributed by Barbara Bray

Organizations in education are finally getting Personalized Learning right: it is all about the learner. It is not about calling it “Personalized Instruction” or “Personalized Education.” It is not about technology, curriculum, or instruction. It is about the learner making learning personal for his or herself with teacher and learner roles changing. It is about calling students “learners” and Personalize learning charttransforming the system. The current system of content delivery and focusing on performance instead of learning is not working for most of our children and not preparing them for their future. Now is the time to transform teaching and learning and focusing on the learner.

The four concepts that encompass the 10 Trends to Personalize Learning include:Learning Culture, Learning Environments, Deeper Learning, and Partners in Learning.


Learning Culture

All stakeholders have a set of beliefs around teaching and learning yet they may not Bray 1come together around a belief system where they all agree. Most of us only know about teaching and learning from when we went through the system as a student where we learned to be compliant and follow the rules. It’s easier to keep doing what we are used to be doing than changing how we teach. Change is hard, but change is necessary now for our kids and their future. Teaching and learning transforms if all stakeholders buy-in and have a commitment to make it happen. Read more…

Bray 2Competency-based systems (sometimes referred to as “proficiency-based” or “performance-based”) are a re-engineering of our education system around learning where failure is no longer an option. Learners may move at their own pace, reading at one level and working on a math digital badge at another level. Competency education is rooted in the notion that education is about mastering a set of skills and knowledge, not just moving through a curriculum. Currently, 42 states have adopted policies that give schools different ways to award credit to learners including waivers from time-based requirements. Read more about competency-based with It’s All about Time by Fred Bramante.

Bray 3A Personalized Learning System is a culture shift and a change in process that impacts the entire school community. Moving to learner-centered environments is more than just handing over the keys to the learner so they drive their own learning right away. As more schools build a shared belief system, more districts will need to support the transformation to learner-centered environments. It will be important to build capacity with your own staff. Teachers are learners too, so they will need coaching support. Teachers will develop Personal Professional Learning Plans based on learning goals developed with the coach.  Read the conversations about self-sustainable systems.

How do you develop the culture where a “learner” is more valued than a “student”?

Learning Environments

The twenty-first century is challenging old notions of learning spaces. The idea that Bray 4learners must be seated at desks in rows is becoming archaic. Technology and the move to personalizing learning, collaborative work and projects is changing the classroom. Teachers no longer have to stand up and deliver “sit and get” curriculum. Some may call these spaces blended learning, but they need to be learner-centered not teacher-centered. Flexible learning spaces are designed to give learners learning opportunities that invite curiosity, creativity and collaboration. Read about the five zones of learning spaces.

Multi-age classrooms are when one or more teachers teach multiple grade levels. Bray 5Teachers have been working in isolation behind closed doors for too long. Co-teaching not only opens those doors but it develops a professional relationship where two or more teachers collaborate to support learners more effectively. In multi-age co-teaching classrooms learners are flexibly grouped throughout the day based on the activity, topic, work habits, level of independence and content knowledge. Multi-age co-teaching models allow learners to stay with the same teachers for more than one year. Read about the KM Explore model that is age-less and grade-less.

How can you create a classroom that is “age-less” and “grade-less”?

Deeper Learning

Bray 6Project-based learning (PBL) is a form of inquiry-based learning that is contextual, creative and shared where learners collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and problem solving. There is a difference between doing projects and project-based learning activities. A teacher may design a project where learners create the same product instead of focusing on the process. PBL calls for authentic assessment by demonstrating mastery to a real audience that encourages learners to ask questions around interests and topic. When this happens, learners are motivated, engaged, and drive learning. Read how at the Inquiry Hub inquiry drives learning.

Bray 7Purposeful play should be the central learning experience in classrooms. It is a natural way of learning that supports creativity and imagination. Play does not need to be limited to primary classrooms. It doesn’t matter what age we are; we all like to play. Play is about social and emotional learning and how people learn in a social context. When you play, you challenge yourself with meaningful tasks that have a purpose. Check out the Walker Learning Approach. This is where technology and pedagogy can intersect. Each learner has a Personal Learning Backpack with resources, learning strategies, and instructional strategies based on how they learn best and goals. Read conversations about play-based learning.

Bray 8Assessment AS learning is where learners monitor their progress and reflect on their own learning. It is based on research about how learning happens and is characterized by making adjustments to their learning as they learn so they achieve deeper understanding. In the world of standardized tests and teacher-directed environments, teachers tend to be accountable for all the learning, not the learners. When you move to assessment as learning, the types of assessments change. Instead of responding to interventions or failures, it is responding to learning as it happens Learners are not only more responsible for their learning, they are more accountable as they monitor and reflect on their progress. Read conversations about assessment as learning.

How can you change assessment so learners take more responsibility for their learning?

Partners in Learning

Personalized learning is all about building relationships. The partnership between Bray 9teacher and learner is about understanding how they learn best using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express. The conversations are all about the learning, their interests, aspirations, hopes along with their strengths and challenges a learner may have in their Personal Learning Plans. This partnership says to the learner how much the teacher cares about them, their learning and their future. 32 states have begun to use Personal Learning Plans (PLP) or Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) with 21 states mandating for use with all learners. Read more about UDL for all learners.

Each learner can be assigned to at least one advisor over several years. An advisor canBray 10 be any adult in the building. In fact, each learner can have several advisors that could include another learner. The idea around advisories is that there has to be a purpose for the advisory program, and it is important to start each advisory with a clear structure. There are advisories where there is no structure or purpose other than meeting on a regular basis. The heart of the advisory is the reflection on the learner’s work and learning goals referring to their Personal Learning Plans. It is important to get advisories right and build these relationships around a purpose on a regular basis. Read more about advisories, mentors, and internships.

Why do partnerships and relationships matter?

The 10 Trends to Personalize Learning was written to guide discussions around personalized learning, developed so each trend was discussed in our Twitter chat (#plearnchat) and expanded in the form of an infographic that you are welcome to download and share.


Written by

Barbara Bray is co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and co-author of Make Learning Personal with Kathleen McClaskey. They believe that all learners can learn and that now is the time to transform teaching and learning by changing teacher and learner roles. You can reach Barbara and Kathleen at

No comments

leave a comment