Personalized Learning

The What

Personalized learning is an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs, and interests for students of all subject areas in grades PreK-12.  In a personalized learning environment, learners are active participants in:

At any given time, learning objectives, content, methods and pacing are likely to vary from learner to learner as they pursue proficiency relative to established standards. A fully personalized environment moves beyond both differentiation and individualization.

The Institute for Personalized Learning has developed a model that focuses on change in three areas and in three phases: learning and teaching; relationships and roles; and structures and policies.  

Shifts to Learner Roles in a Personalized Learning Environment

Shift from

Being skilled students

Having minimal input into their educational path 

Compliant learners

Experiencing “delivered” instruction 

Summative assessments designed to determine if learning has occurred (with no intent to address further learning)

Shift to

Becoming skilled lifelong learners

Co-creating the path they will take

Committed learners

Experiencing instruction as a shared responsibility between learner and educator

Summative assessments that are demonstrations of mastery (with the intent to inform subsequent teaching)

For more information on personalized learning, watch this video of Henry County Schools, and visit

The Why

A personalized learning model goes beyond serving the individual needs of students.  It develops students to become lifelong learners, which ultimately prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship. In order for students to thrive in an evolving, competitive global society, students need to develop proficiency in 21st century skills by engaging in rigorous, relevant, authentic learning experiences to persevere and innovate as they chart their own learning paths.  

By giving students the voice and agency to take ownership of their individual learning pathways within a flexibly paced, competency-based schedule, students engage fully in their learning and remain committed to reaching their learning goals.  From a competency-based perspective, students focus more on the learning, and less on the grade, applying their knowledge in real-world contexts to demonstrate a high level of understanding and mastery of standards. Through this student-driven process, students better manage obstacles and opportunities, as well as comprehend compelling issues affecting their lives, communities, and their potential in a global economy.

The How

Personalized learning can be implemented on both a micro- and macro-level. Teachers can incorporate components of personalized learning into their regular instruction or schools may elect to adopt personalized learning model as a school-wide program. 

Incorporating features of personalized learning

Competency-Based Learning

Video: Students make progress as they demonstrate mastery of competencies, academic content, or skills through authentic real-world applications, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning.

Differentiated Instruction

Teachers respond to learners’ needs by differentiating through content, process, product, and affect/environment, which requires individual or small group instruction according to students’ readiness levels, interests, and learner profiles. 

Strategies for Fostering Student Autonomy Within A Standards-Based Curriculum

This article provides insights on how to teach social and emotional skills to foster autonomy, as well as what to consider when building a standards-aligned curriculum that promotes student choice.

Flexible Learning Environments

By configuring the classroom space in a flexible manner, which involves varying design choices, students become more productive in their studies and collaborate more effectively with peers. 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 

UDL is a a framework designed to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all students by breaking down the barriers of learning based on insights into how humans learn.

Implementing personalized learning as a program for your school or complex

Education Elements

This team provides consultation services and open resources and tools to support schools and districts in implementing personalized learning, including the Core 4 Continuum (pictured),  and Implementation Framework.

Connecticut Association of Schools

This paper on personalized learning provides guidance on the implementation process for schools and districts.

Leadership Competencies for Personalized Learning

The Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) furnished a guidance document to support school leaders in the implementation process of personalized learning.

Core 4 Continuum of Personalized Learning: Targeted Instruction, Data Driven Decisions, Flexible Content and Tools, and Student Reflection and Ownership.

Hawai‘i Examples of Personalized Learning 

Performance-Based Assessments (PBA)

Hawai‘i’s Career and Technical Education Performance-Based Assessments (PBA) evaluate students’ ability to apply the academic and technical skills and knowledge they have learned in their Career and Technical Education Programs of Study. Each PBA includes a challenge from a local or national business or organization asking students to develop a solution, strategy, and/or product to solve a problem facing the business or organization.

Hawai‘i State Science & Engineering Fair

Students conduct scientific research, prepare a display board explaining the research, and present their findings to individual scientists, community groups and related organizations at the annual fair.  Students have the opportunity to compete for cash, scholarships and other awards while the top 5 projects are selected to represent the State of Hawai‘i at the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) held in May of each year.  About 6,000 students participate in more than 100 public and private school fairs, with about 30 percent advancing to compete at one of nine district fairs (Central, Hawaii East, Hawaii West, HAIS, Honolulu, Kauai, Leeward, Maui, Windward).