iNACOL defines personalized learning as “tailoring learning for each student’s strength, needs, and interests—including enabling student’s voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.” Dr. Monica Burns, curriculum and educational technology consultant and founder of ClassTechTips.com, in a recent edWebinar, echoed this iNACOL concept. Before designing learning experiences that are personal to individual students, it is critical for classroom teachers and school leaders to identify student engagement, student interest, student choice, student voice, cross-curricular connections, and differentiated resources.

When it comes to student engagement, Burns said, “We want to make sure that we are capturing student attention by having students’ eyes where we want them to be or their hands where we want them to explore.” At the same time, it is essential to recognize that engagement looks different for every student in a classroom. By listening to what students are excited about and identifying their needs, teachers can provide a flexible learning environment that supports, energizes, and engages all individual learners.

Student choice and voice happens when students have opportunities to share what makes their interests unique and are active participants in conversations around success criteria and curriculum-based norms. How students demonstrate what they’ve learned and celebrate their learning journey is as important to the personalized learning process as engagement, interest, voice, and choice.

Related: How can we make personalized learning work?

Taking personalized learning to scale

Students can celebrate and share small learning wins through a variety of personalized options such as text, graphics, collaborative discussions and digital tools such as podcasts and videos. With their interests identified and supported, students get into the flow of learning and see the purpose of what they are doing in class.

Expanding your personalized-learning practice

To put personalized learning into practice, there are a variety of cross-curricular connections that need to happen across a grade-level team, school, and district. Through curriculum mapping, school-wide goals, and thematic exploration, school districts can establish norms and clear standards connections for personalized student experiences. Resources should be curated and differentiated and ready for individual students, “whether it is based on their particular reading levels, the way they like to engage with content in online and offline modes, or whether it is merely thinking about what gets them interested in a topic,” said Burns. Resources can be distributed to individual students using digital tools so that students experience content that is relevant to their goals and interests.

About the Author:

Eileen Belastock, CETL is the director of academic technology for Mount Greylock Regional School District in Williamstown, Mass. You can follow her on Twitter @EileenBelastock.


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