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What Is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning describes the practice of making each student’s needs the driving force in his or her education. It is an alternative to the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach where students who happen to be the same age learn the same things at the same time.

Personalized learning does not have to mean students are working in isolation. They can experience a variety of instructional approaches and can be continually regrouped with other students who share common needs. While technology can play a role, it does not mean that students must spend all of their time on computers.

A Spectrum of Solutions

Schools have several options when exploring how best to support personalization. At one end of the spectrum are digital products and tools that teachers can use as learning supplements for their classroom. These products generally require the classroom teacher to determine how best to integrate them into their daily activities and workflow.

On the other end are comprehensive, school-based learning models such as Teach to One: Math that typically replace a school’s core curriculum and embed personalization into all aspects of learning. School-based models combine an academic design that articulates what students learn with a set of operating structures that shape where, when, and how students learn. They affect what the teacher does, what the student does, and the organization of the classroom.

The academic design includes components such as

  • instructional content
  • student learning progressions
  • assessments
  • classroom materials

The operational design includes features such as

  • student regrouping
  • reconfiguration of classroom space
  • innovative use of technology
  • new roles for educators

Developing School-Based Learning Models

Models developed by organizations such as New Classrooms have teams of academic, operational, and technological experts focused on the research and development required to support personalization. To date, hundreds of thousands of hours have gone into the details of Teach to One: Math on everything from learning progressions to instructional content to assessment to the logistics that enable personalized homework. Schools are then able to customize the model to meet the unique needs of their particular school community.

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