Personalized Learning Empowers Teachers in Classroom, Career

New KnowledgeWorks and NCTAF report sheds light on what personalized learning looks like in the classroom


Past generations of students turned to teachers to ask knowledge-based questions, such as where Yellowstone National Park is located. But today’s students can just as easily ask their phones.

“Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming,” Siri can quickly reply.

In today’s technology-driven world, teachers may no longer be the sole keepers of knowledge. But they are more important than ever in building relationships with students to help facilitate learning and prepare for success after high school.

Today, KnowledgeWorks and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) release The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers©. The report, based on interviews with teachers and administrators, helps paint a better picture of what personalized learning looks like through the eyes of teachers.

“Historically, teachers have been somewhat isolated in their own classrooms,” one teacher shares in the paper. “The personalized learning movement has changed the way that we think about communication, both inside and outside the classroom.”

“It was my job to envision how personalized learning and this shift in my approach to teaching and learning, would be successful in my kindergarten classroom,” another educator reflects. “This afforded me the opportunity to build the culture that I wanted from scratch and share my vision of what school ‘should be about.’”

Based on interviews with teachers, instructional coaches and principals, the paper explores what drives educators to build personalized learning environments in the classroom. It also provides excerpts from educator interviews and teacher reflections on how vision, culture and transparency have impacted personalized learning implementation.

Finally, the paper aligns interview findings to 10 district conditions for scaling personalized learning, such as curriculum, instruction, technology policy and assessment systems. KnowledgeWorks originally published The District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide for Scaling Personalized Learning© in 2014.

“We’ve spent the past few years researching how to support an education system that puts students at the center of their education,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “We’ve learned a lot from school districts about the environments needed for personalized learning, from the local, community level to ideal state-wide policies. This paper considers perhaps the most important level of the system: the teachers who spend every day with our students.”

Finally, the report finds that the power to transform teaching and learning for students is first, and foremost, in teachers’ hands – as long as district leaders and policymakers allow the space for classroom innovation and trust educators as experts in their field.

“This report makes it clear that great teaching and personalized learning go hand in hand,” NCTAF President Melinda George said. “As a nation, we must ensure that the proper supports and conditions are in place to encourage teachers and students to take ownership of their learning.”

About KnowledgeWorks

KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.