Implementing a Personalized Learning Initiative

Implementing a Personalized Learning Initiative

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4237-8.ch005
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This chapter is designed to inform teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers on the research available for implementing a personalized learning (PL) program. Personalized learning can be implemented in individual classrooms or schoolwide. Both scenarios are addressed. Much of the research involving PL has been performed in charter schools, and that research is also explored in this chapter. The chapter includes recommendations and identified challenges that go along with creating a program to scale, as well as discusses the impact PL initiatives have on the teaching staff. The chapter provides an introduction, background information, and case studies involving classroom and schoolwide PL programs. Additional resources are included as well.
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Personalized learning (PL) is a monumental shift in policy and practice, but it may very well be the antidote for what ails the current educational system. The basic tenets of PL require students to actively claim their education rather than just receiving it. In 1977, Adrienne Rich (1995) addressed Douglass College at their convocation in her speech, “Claiming an Education.” She discussed claiming versus receiving an education and noted that it is the difference between acting or being acted upon. That comparison is a very apt description of the difference between educating students in a traditional manner and personalizing the learning experience for students. Personalized learning is a way to transition students from functioning as a receptacle for an education that someone else, such as a teacher, textbook publisher or software designer, has designed to becoming the designers of their own education. In some cases, Rich noted, claiming versus receiving an education can be the difference between life and death. That rhetoric may sound like hyperbole to some, but with the rapidly changing job market and the new 21st-century skills needed to stay current, it may not be too far off.

In her speech, Rich (1995) addressed both the individual responsibility a student has to oneself and the responsibility the educator must possess to educate their students, stating, “This contract must remain intuitive, dynamic, unwritten; but we must turn to it again and again if learning is to be reclaimed from the depersonalizing and cheapening pressures of the present-day academic scene” (p. 231). More than 40 years later, educators today can benefit from her critique of the then current educational landscape and reflect on how much has changed and what still needs to change.

Personalized learning is a hot topic among educators and policymakers alike because when used as an educational strategy, it possesses the potential to create meaningful reform in education. However, because of little available research, decision-makers continue to have more questions than answers when discussing a program focused on PL. When planning to implement a PL program, critical questions must be addressed: What does PL look like for this school? Will it be a full school initiative wherein students are grouped by competency and not by age or grade or will it be an initiative self-contained in a single classroom? Will only certain aspects of PL be adopted and, if so, which ones? What makes the most sense for this school’s students and families? And finally, what existing information and research is available that can provide insight in order to benefit from other schools’ experiences?

In the previous chapters, PL was discussed as an instructional strategy. In this chapter, PL will be discussed within the context of a school reform initiative.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Discovery: Students developing an understanding of how they learn best and reflecting on their learning experiences.

Replication: Copying something.

School Culture: How students, staff, and teachers work together to adhere to a set of core values and beliefs that may be stated explicitly or implicitly.

Best Practices: The most effective professional practices.

Sustainability: The ability of a program to be maintained.

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to interpret results in a way that coincides with existing beliefs.

Innovation: A new method or way of performing an act or process.

Student Agency: Self-regulated learning in which students advocate for themselves.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): Children and adults apply knowledge and skills to understand and manage emotions, achieve goals, and convey empathy.

Scalability: The ability to replicate a process or function in a larger capacity.

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