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What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning means that learning starts with the learner. Personalized Learning takes a holistic view of the individual, skill levels, interests, strengths and challenges, and prior knowledge.  Learners become more responsible of their learning. The teacher becomes more of an advisor, facilitator, and guide. Roles change. Teaching and learning changes.

For more information go to Personalize Learning.

Why we need to move to Personalized Learning?

Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 120 years. Today’s learners are not challenged nor engaged by traditional models so they are searching for alternatives that they know: online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. Each person is unique. After years of teaching “one size fits all,” and seeing it fail, learners are demanding to meet their personal needs so they can be prepared for college, career and life. We continue to teach out-dated strategies to prepare learners for our past not their future. Instead, we need to create a different mindset that develops higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and so they reach their fullest potential.

 What does Personalized Learning look like?

A personalized learning environment encourages learners to progress at their own pace instead of by grade levels and “mandated” seat time. You do not just hear the teacher talking. Learners are collaborating, working individually, and even teaching each other. The learner has their own learning path with multiple strategies based on how they learn best. This changes the teacher role and the whole learning environment. School doesn’t look like “traditional school” anymore.

Learners can be co-designers of the curriculum with the teachers. Teachers are co-learners with the learners. The teacher doesn’t have to be the hardest working person in the classroom; to really learn, the learners need to be. They want to learn because they have a voice in their learning and understand what they need to learn.

 Why has it been so tough to move to Personalized Learning Environments?

Teachers were not taught to teach personalized learning strategies or understand how they can do incorporate it within the constraints of all they are expected to do. Teachers need help in designing the learner profile and strategies that encourage learners to own and drive their learning.

Administrators, parents and learners are all essential pieces of the puzzle. Parents know their children but only know how they themselves were taught and may not be aware of learner-centered strategies. Additionally, administrators have so much to do and are overwhelmed with the task of just managing the school. Teachers are busy with full class sizes, testing demands and classroom management. As a result, many schools feel it is easier to continue with the same, traditional school fundamentals as “how we do it around here.”

There are those in the industry who believe that “Personalized Learning” is a fad or even dangerous. In several articles and discussions, there are concerns that learners need a broader knowledge and guidance from the teacher. We based our work on Universal Design for Learning ® (UDL) as the lens for the teacher and learner. The teacher is a valuable partner in learning guiding the process and scaffolding skills and knowledge. They just don’t have to be the only expert in the class.

 Want to personalize learning for your learners?

Barbara Bray is co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. Barbara and Kathleen can help you and your school:

To learn more about personalized learning and how you can engage your learners, go to Personalize Learning, LLC.


  • March 5, 2012 12:29 pmPosted 4 years ago
    Amy Dawson

    I love your site. In New Jersey, we have a state law (Option 2) that allows for students to have a personalized approach to their high school credits. I know Ohio also does — what other states have passed laws that allow for students to get graduation credits in more creative means?

    • March 8, 2012 6:24 pmPosted 4 years ago
      Barbara Bray (Author)

      Hi Amy – I need to learn more about what different states approve for high school credits. It would be great to talk to you about New Jersey’s law and share some examples of what students are doing for graduation credits. Thanks, Barbara

  • August 3, 2012 3:11 pmPosted 3 years ago

    Hi Barbara,
    I’d LOVE to talk with you – there are so many exciting things going on in NJ as far as our students personalizing their learning.
    I apologize for my delay — some how I did not see that you responded.
    thanks, Amy

    • August 24, 2012 7:47 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Barbara Bray (Author)

      Hi Amy, I’m going to write you directly so I can find out more about how NJ is personalizing learning. Thanks – Barbara

  • February 21, 2013 6:16 amPosted 3 years ago

    Dear Barbara

    I am a Ph.D student at the School of Foreign Languages, Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand. I am thinking about the design of computer-based tools and materials for individualized language learning. In Thailand, most students are still dependent on teachers and classroom learning. I hope this project would bring some changes in language learning.

    At first, I thought that individualization and personalization were exactly the same. I was wrong! You can provide very clear definitions. I love your site as it provides useful information and guidelines for language teaching and learning. I welcome your suggestions about my project.


  • September 14, 2013 6:35 pmPosted 2 years ago

    Love the PL concept. Any thoughts on how we might assess PL of foreign language in high school settings? Thanks.

    • October 11, 2013 12:30 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Barbara Bray (Author)

      Hi Shari,
      From my own perspective that it is too bad in the US that we wait until High School to teach foreign languages. Other countries start young. If the high school learner is given the opportunities to take responsibility for themselves to learn Spanish or French with the teacher as a guide, they need to acquire the skills to choose the appropriate tools, resources, and support. PL is all about starting with the learner and how they learn best.

      High schools tend to be set up with a “one size fits all” curriculum and it just doesn’t work well with all learners who learn differently. Neuroscience confirms that our brains are all different and some of us need to learn languages by experiencing them, hearing a phrase in a relevant context, and getting feedback. We learned our own language by talking first. We didn’t write or conjugate verbs until we mastered our own language. Just my 2¢

      • October 29, 2014 4:13 pmPosted 1 year ago

        I am also interested in learning more what PL looks like for my MS and HS World Languages teachers in a brick and mortar, legacy model. What would the ‘wish list’ look like if we could ask for the moon? What are the customized learning paths? How do teachers personalize learning around learner profiles that begin with goals and conference with students to connect with them when there are over 35 students in one class?


  • August 30, 2014 6:23 amPosted 1 year ago

    Hello. I have a few questions about personalized learning and trying to decide whether the following environment will be appropriate for my children. Their home school is beginning personalized learning. One of my children will be placed in a combined 2nd and 3rd grade class of 85-90 students with two teachers and one para. Can personalized learning work with so many students? I am afraid my shy child will just get lost and right now she fears being with the 3rd graders. Being a private music teacher, I am concerned about how it will affect music classes and grading. The students will be sent to music in groups of 45 combined 2nd and 3rd graders. Third graders are physically and rhythmically ready to play recorder but second graders are not. For my younger child, putting him with such large numbers for a 45 minute music class is not developmentally appropriate.

    Is the above situation really an appropriate application of personalized learning?
    I am also worried about safety and fire law with so many
    kids in a room.



  • April 21, 2015 10:33 amPosted 1 year ago

    Hi Barbara,
    I feel so validated right now. Thank you for these wonderful words of guidance, inspiration and supportive strategies. I am trying to work with my teaching team to move in this direction along with me and am being met with some reluctance. Do you have any suggestions for moving the feet of the reticent that will help assuage their fears of change. They want what is best for our students but are hesitant to give up their perceived control.

    Thank you again,

  • June 12, 2015 12:44 amPosted 10 months ago
    Noble Augustine

    How exactly can learning be personalized in the classroom? In the school?

  • September 4, 2015 11:50 amPosted 7 months ago

    I am the husband of a beautiful Bride, who is nearing 30 years in the public education arena (in Title 1 and more affluent communities alike) and I have witnessed my Bride get the best out of the worst; in spite of a serious lack of desire or interest from most of the parents to take any responsibility for nor accept any accountability in establishing the tiniest shred of a foundation of core knowledge skills for their child’s future education. Mind you, these have been in both Elementary and Middle schools. I understand your concept, however, I believe it will work for only approximately 10% of students. And these happen to be the exact students whose Parents have been actively and intelligently interacting with them since their birth. These are also the same 10% who score highest on College Entrance Exams. If PL can manufacture a foundation that bridges the gap between students’ porous early upbringing and an even manageable score on college entrance exams, you’ve achieved a feat on the level of the first Splitting of the Atom. If not. Well the rich will continue to get richer and… Well you know the rest.


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