Personalized Learning from A-Z

Jill Thompson is Personalized Learning Program Manager for Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools and President of Edulum. Follow her on twitter @edu_thompson


One of my goals for 2017 is to help educators see that Personalized Learning (PL) is not “another thing” and not something that is hard to do in your classroom. All you have to do is start small and be intentional in how you start.

Below are 26 ways to incorporate the PL philosophy into your classroom practice. I suggest choosing one and start by making small changes in your practice.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

-Tamika L. Sims

Personalized Learning from A to Z

  • A. Authentic – Create authentic experiences for your students that align to the real world and are fun.
  • B. Brain Breaks – Having an Action Based Learning (ABL) classroom that allows brain breaks keeps students engaged through movement.
  • C. Choice – Allow students to have choice in the classroom from the room design to the tasks they complete.
  • D. Data Trackers – Students keeping data trackers helps them understand what they are strong in and what they need to work on. They will build a growth mindset about learning.
  • E. Empower – Empower students to have agency in their learning.
  • F. Flexible environments – Let students pick where they sit and offer flexible seating options. It can be as simple as allowing students to stand if they choose, or you can re-design your room with different types of seating.
  • G. Goal setting – Have students set academic goals.
  • H. Habits – Let go of old habits. As teachers/educators we get stuck in habits because they become comfortable for us and not always what is best for students. Reevaluate your teaching habits and think about why you _____ (fill in the blank with practice). Ask yourself: is it best for students? Why or Why Not?
  • I. Innovation – Give students time to be innovative and think outside the box. You can do this through Genius Hour or PBL’s etc.
  • J. Journey – Personalized Learning is a journey and always evolving for both you and the students. There is no one right way and you will at times make mistakes.
  • K. Know – Take the time to get to know your students including their strengthens and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
  • L. Learning outcomes – Allow students to understand what the learning outcome is. Understanding the outcome helps them focus on what steps they need to meet the outcome.
  • M. Mastery learning – Allow mastery to be measured in various ways in the classroom, including formal or informal assessments, performance tasks, or verbal responses.
  • N. Non-cognitive skills – Dispositions or non-cognitive skills are arguably just as important as understanding content or maybe even more important. Instilling skills such as communication, critical thinking and collaboration are important life long learning skills that help students become successful in life.
  • O. Opportunity – Provide students opportunities that are new or different to them opening up doors to possibilities.
  • P. Pace – Allow students to work at their own pace/speed.
  • Q. Quests – Learning quests allow students to research and discover content verse regurgitating.
  • R. Reflection – Reflecting on your work is one of the most underutilized best practices. Having students reflect on their work, assessment and learning process helps guide them to understand mistakes, ideas and problem solve.
  • S. Shift – You need to shift the role of the teacher from a lecturer and holder of all knowledge to a coach who guides students based on needs.
  • T. Technology – Utilize technology to support instruction and deliver content based on the students needs.
  • U. Use Data – Use data to make changes in your instruction, drive your lessons and tasks.
  • V. Voice – Have students share their voice and knowledge with others. This can be done through blogging, projects, creating such as iMovie etc.
  • W. Whole Child The concept of meeting the Whole Child is more than establishing relationships with your students, but also being aware of each student’s health, safety, engagement and support.
  • X. Xamples – Have students collect eXamples of their work over time to see their growth. (Okay, so I cheated a little bit with this one but X is hard!)
  • Y. You Matter – Every student needs to hear they matter. Check out these resources from the You Matter Movement.
  • Z. Zigzag – PL is not going to be perfect all the time. You will have to be able to be zig-zag through what works for you in your classroom.

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