Conceptualizing And Implementing Personalized Learning


Education today is learner-driven, diversified, and differentiated, which addresses the diversified needs of the global world and moves countries and individuals to a path of economic self-sufficiency. But with the way they approach it, almost everything is changing and evolving at a revolutionary speed; education has also evolved from where it was. The millennial buzzword is “personalized” or “customized”. And education is not limited either to traditional definitions of subjects or a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach.

Parents want and expect a high level of customization concerning learning and interactions and want to know/control what is being taught. The education sector is under a microscope. With global access to education, the needs and requirements of the education sector and the individual have changed and become highly customized.

The father of constructivism Jean Piaget (1972, 1974) believed that people are always trying to reach the state of equilibrium, whereby the learner discards his misconceptions, adopts scientific explanations that best fit the situation, and constantly tests the adequacy of his ideas through assimilation and accommodation. Actual learning happens through incorporation, in which scientific knowledge is not transferred from teacher to student. Instead, students implement their conceptual changes enabled by student-centered teachers and act as facilitators of learning, not as authorities who transmit information to students. The teacher needs to examine each student’s cognitions and develop instructional techniques which create a cognitive conflict to be resolved. Indeed, students must actively participate in learning, which significantly depends on the shared experiences of students, peers, and the teacher; hence, cooperative learning is a significant teaching method used in the constructivist classroom.

In my opinion, actual learning happens when education is backed by a scientific approach to classroom instruction and accommodates the diverse learning needs of the students, is student-centered, and teachers are facilitators, not authorities, that transmit information to students.
While the obstacles are significant, they are not intractable. Technology has made it easy to approach education from different perspectives. Technology in the classroom, blended learning, continuous research and research findings have made it possible to make education customized, equitable, and accessible to even the remotest corners of the world. Because of technology, we are well-positioned to adapt, pivot, and partner in innovative ways to drive meaningful change desperately needed. No longer is scaffolding a far-fetched perception. It is a reality of every classroom that believes in personalized learning.

Globalized world and globalized classrooms-

Today, even the classrooms look global. As a diversified group of children fill the classroom, classrooms have become a complex world of their own.
The following needs adjustment-

  • Content– teachers will have to come off the textbook and the one-size-fits-all syndrome and vigorously incorporate content that is available online. The media and the methods in the classroom should effectively engage students to explore their interests, develop their skills, and encourage students to become lifelong learners. The content will have to be learner-driven instead of classroom driven. Students have to participate actively in their learning according to their competencies and passion. One size does not fit all these days.
  • Product– Teachers need to bolster their pedagogy with technology aids like pictographs, podcasts, AR VR, and digital apps. Searching just middle school Algebra gives out millions of options via website search engines. High-time schools and teachers started including technology to save time, high teacher-student engagement, and address diversified learning needs.
  • Processes– At the core of the technology is Data. Technology should make pedagogy data-driven. Modern technology-enabled instruction must be embedded in the data derived from the inclusion of technology. This learning approach will ensure a more transparent approach to personalized learning. The strategies, processes, and goals are set and flexible enough to review and rework according to individual student learning needs. Workstations, simulated offices, workplaces, and learning stations- the innovative transformation of the physical structure of the classrooms will augment and support individualized learning.
  • The benefits of including technology- customization, and scaffolding, create the potential to develop new learning environments that help students learn at their own pace and according to their competencies.
  • The most important aspect of the process, however, remains student engagement. In a learner-driven environment where students have the freedom to voice their interests and approach to learning. Data should drive the path to education. Whether individual, in groups, or scaffolding, teachers should be able to use technology to drive instruction.

All in all, personalization entails starting the process of learning with the learner, connecting with their interests, passions, and aspirations, selecting appropriate technology and resources to support their learning, building a network of peers, experts, and teachers to guide the learning, and, lastly, implementing summative assessment not only of and for but also as learning. Personalized learning represents a shift away from the model in which students consume information through independent channels such as the library, a textbook, or a learning management system, moving instead to a model where students draw connections from a growing matrix of resources and take up responsibility for their own progress. In addition, PL enables the learner to continue learning after formal courses have ended and made lifelong learning possible.

Conceptualizing personalized learning-

According to Carol Ann Tomlinson-

“We do much better if we start with what we consider to be high-end curriculum and expectations — and then differentiate to provide scaffolding, to lift the kids. The usual tendency is to start with what we perceive to be grade-level material and then dumb it down for some and raise it for others. But we don’t usually raise it very much from that starting point, and dumbing down sets lower expectations for some kids.”

Measure Complex Competencies

Going by Tomilsons’s words and putting my research in context, teachers first need to identify students’ needs, interests, aptitudes, strengths, challenges, and social-emotional levels. Then the teacher needs to consider the students’ preferences for engagement and continue adding resources, creating flexible blueprints for achieving instructional goals, selecting materials, and laying down a methodology or strategy to approach instruction. The assessment is a part of learning and evaluating only to the extent assessments engage students to reflect and critically assess their learning goals. The reviews are to help teachers decide the future course of action.

The INTERNPEARL model of personalized learning (Alisauskiene et al., 2020b) recognizes the joint responsibility of the learner and teacher for the learning endeavor.

Personalized learning as an interactive learner and teacher journey involves four core dimensions: Person, Environment, Process, and Practice

  • Person– diversity inclusion, students’ knowledge as learners, learner autonomy and learner-driven, the joint responsibility of teachers and students in learning outcomes.
  • Environment– learning spaces, individual workplaces, or workstations, group work, display, presentation, celebrating learning.
  • Process– skillful interaction, co-creation, authentic contexts, systematic inquiry, flexibility, and support, connecting learning, assessment, and reflection.
  • Practice– building relationships, learning communities, communities of practice, reflective practitioners.


I suggest a few approaches to implementing personalized learning-
First and foremost, It is essential to have a strategy for implementing a personalized learning plan if the schools and teachers want to succeed. Having an outline will help strengthen the personalized learning process. The design will help teachers put the students at the center of the learning process, enriching the learning process. The strategy should focus on the following-

The Alignment With The World Vision Of Education- core subject knowledge and foundational skills such as literacy and numeracy must be personalized. Digital inclusion, collaboration, creation, and sharing of content, and problem-solving are the essential components to addressing personalized learning needs and meeting a complex world’s demands.

The Rollout Plan- since PL is not the traditional teaching method and is very focused in approach, the school management should work on a flexible plan that allows them to reflect, review, and reform.

The Multi-Year Learner- Driven Learning Roadmap- one of the essential aspects of PL, is embedded in a learner-driven continuous, multi-year plan. Learning in this sense does not end with the academic year but continues into the next and next till students are confident about what they have learned. Also, the students decide the pace and content of their learning according to their individual competencies.

Learning Outcomes That Are Measurable And Data-Driven- PL is highly data-driven because of technology. Teachers must refer to data to inform instruction. The data should inform the diverse learning needs of students that the teacher collects with note-taking, formative, summative assessments, and scaffold instruction for optimum data-driven learning outcomes.

Measure Complex Competencies

A roadmap for implementing personalized learning-

  • Encourage PL implementers to clearly define their approach and articulate a theory of change that connects specific learner characteristics to learning environment changes to learner outcomes.
  • Implement design-based research that interleaves theory development with classroom implementation and connects researchers to educators and leaders.
  • Collect more classroom observational data on how classroom learning environments change when learning becomes personalized, compared to non-personalized instruction.
  • Conduct research and document evidence of the authentic implementation of student control, choice, and ownership.

In the next blog I will discuss the implementing process in detail. Watch the space :)!