Personalized Learning

Personalization is the idea that students learn in a place where they are their own advocate.   Students are free and encouraged to study what they want, when they want, and where they want with teachers implementing such a curriculum.   The idea is that students are honored as individuals.   “Student-centered learning.”

If you are in a community that is ready for a change in education (aren’t we all?) then Carol Ann Tomlinson has some questions you should ask yourself before you dive into this paradigm shift.

Know your purpose of implementing a new personalized learning curriculum in your school.   What are your expected outcomes?   If you know your answers as to why you’re doing this, that answer will motivate community support.   If you know your answers to what personalized learning will look like at your school and how it will be implemented, that informs the staff on what to do specifically to uphold your purpose.   Teachers will be the ones who carry out this new curriculum.   Curricula has a goal in mind.   Make sure that goal matches your idea of personalization.

Who is your audience, and when will they practice personalized learning?   Determine where personalization will best fit as you implement it in baby steps.   Ask for student perspectives, this is their education after all. As the school is making a change, think of how day-to-day logistics will have to adjust to personalized learning.   How will school resources be shared among individual learners?   How will you accommodate students who aren’t feeling it?   Consider volunteers in the teaching staff who are excited to try personalized learning in their classrooms. How will this marry with teachers who are still doing things the old way.   How will this affect students? What supports will teachers need? Who will support teacher training to stay up to date on this paradigm shift?

Parents will react similarly to teachers.   Some will be on board, some will not, some will be at a total loss for conceptualizing the idea that their child is in charge of their learning.   The blame is not heavily weighed on the teacher anymore.   Keep parents informed on personalization so that they understand it enough to respect the new model.   Keep parents in the loop as personalization is VERY different than when they were in school.

Perhaps the most important aspect of implementing personalized learning in your school is the principal.   How does a principal become an instructional coach?     How does he/she continually promote personalization for teachers?

Personalized learning does sound like a really cool idea, but it reminded me of a weapon.   Weapons can be efficient and effective if you know how to use it.   If you aren’t prepared and learned in it’s beauty, then it can be dangerous.   I think it’s a big idea that needs to take baby steps before we all can start singing Kumbaya.

One way my school is trying out student-centered learning is through a two week period in the school year where students spend the first half of the day in routine classroom learning, and then the other half of the day in an area of their choosing.   Teachers were able to pick ANYTHING they enjoyed and knew a lot about (i.e. Yoga) and students were able to sign up to do that every afternoon from 12:40-3:15pm.   Teachers got really creative.   Some popular ones were culinary arts, drone videos, and parka making.   Life skills, how awesome!   Read the article from our local radio in the link below:

Tomlinson, C.A. (2017). Let’s celebrate personalization: but not too fast. Educational Leadership (74), 6, 10-15. Retrieved from:’s-Celebrate-Personalization@-But-Not-Too-Fast.aspx