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What is Personalized Learning?

Ask anyone in education for their definition of personalized learning and you will likely get varied answers for what it means for students and how it works in practice.

At KnowledgeWorks, our definition of personalized learning is rooted in our belief that all children can learn, should be challenged to take ownership of their learning as individuals and empowered with the academic knowledge and social-emotional skills they need for the future.

Personalized learning means meeting each student at their own level, challenging them with high expectations for academic achievement and growing student agency through:

  • Instruction aligned to rigorous academic standards and social-emotional skills students need to be ready for college, career and life.
  • Customized instruction that allows each student to design learning experiences aligned to his or her interests.
  • Varied pacing of instruction based on individual student needs, allowing students to accelerate or take additional time based on their level of mastery.
  • Real-time differentiation of instruction, supports and interventions based on data from formative assessments and student feedback to ensure every student remains on track to graduation.
  • Access to clear, transferable learning objectives and assessment results so students and families understand what is expected for mastery and advancement.

Personalizing learning through competency-based education

While there are many strategies teachers already use to personalize learning for their students, KnowledgeWorks is committed to changing the current education culture through system-wide transformation to personalized, competency-based learning.

Some refer to this approach as mastery learning, proficiency-based learning or performance-based learning. No matter what term your community uses, by designing learning around mastery of transparent and challenging academic targets, personalized, competency-based learning helps to:

  • Create a more equitable education system with the flexibility and transparency needed to ensure equal opportunity and targeted supports that ensure each student graduates ready for the future, preventing gaps in knowledge and skills needed for college and career.
  • Empower educators to meet each child where they are with freedom to try creative ways to support individual student needs, learn from failure and collaborate to continuously improve.
  • Prepare students for whatever is next for them by giving them ownership of their learning outcomes, ensuring they develop critical knowledge and skills, empowering them to demonstrate mastery in their own way and encouraging them to pursue their talents and interests.

Why change the traditional approach? Learn why personalized learning is best for students.

As defined by iNACOL and the Council of Chief State School Officers, below are the core components of competency-based learning. KnowledgeWorks and the broader personalized learning field have leveraged this definition in policy and practice:

  • Students advance upon mastery.
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

Classroom Practices to Personalize Learning: Every teacher can personalize learning for their students, and getting started in your classroom is easier than you might think.