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What is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning means that learning starts with the learner. Learning is tailored to the individual needs of each learner instead of by age or grade level. It is more than teaching to “one size fits all” or just moving to learner-centered learning and changing instruction. Personalized Learning takes a holistic view of the individual, skill levels, interests, strengths and challenges, and prior knowledge. The learner owns their learning. Check out Personalize Learning.

Why we need to move to Personalized Learning?

Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 100 years. US schools are based on this model AND focus on teaching to the test. Learners are unchallenged and unengaged by traditional models so they are searching for any alternative that they know: online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. As a result, schools are closing, teachers are being laid off and communities are suffering.

However, each person is unique and needs to be taught in a personalized fashion. After years of teaching “one size fits all,” and seeing it fail, learners are demanding to meet their personal needs. We cannot teach out-dated strategies to prepare learners for the future. Instead, we need to create a different mindset to teach to the individual, not collective.

The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent role and become owner of their learning. Personalizing learning will help your students increase their scores because they will own their learning. As a result, they will use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and marketable in today’s workplace.

What does Personalized Learning look like?

A personalized learning environment is more competency-based where students progress at their own pace instead of by grade levels. No more “mandated” seat time. The learner has their own learning path with multiple strategies to meet their different learning styles. This changes the teacher role and the whole learning environment. School doesn’t look like “traditional school” anymore.

Learners are 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; the learners need to be. They want to learn because they chose the topic and understand what they need to learn. They want to succeed so they try harder. They succeed because they designed their learning goals.

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

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 students 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 taughtand are not 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 and testing demands and students are bored.As a result, many schools feel It is easier to continue with the same, old traditional school fundamentals even if it is not improving test scores or preparing children for what they need. Therefore, to procure this change, an educational consultant is needed who can both create and help implement the personalized learning vision.

Want to personalize learning for your learners?

Barbara Bray is co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. She has worked with numerous schools and districts implementing personalized learning strategies through the nation and worldwide. Barbara and Kathleen can help you and your school:

Personalized learning makes it fun to to be in the classroom. To learn more about personalized learning and how you can engage your learners, go to Personalize Learning, LLC.


  • March 5, 2012 12:29 pmPosted 3 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 3 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 2 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 10 months 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 12 months 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 4 months 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,


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