Personalized learning

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Personalized learning, individualized instruction, personal learning environment and direct instruction all refer to efforts to tailor education to meet the different needs of students.


The use of the term "personalized learning" dates back to at least the early 1960s,[1] but there is no widespread agreement on the definition and components of a personal learning environment.[2] Even enthusiasts for the concept admit that personal learning is an evolving term and doesn't have any widely accepted definition.[3]

In 2005, Dan Buckley defined two ends of the personalized learning spectrum: "personalization for the learner", in which the teacher tailors the learning, and "personalization by the learner", in which the learner develops skills to tailor his own learning. This spectrum was adopted by the (2006) Microsoft's Practical Guide to Envisioning and Transforming Education.[4]


The United States National Education Technology Plan 2017 defines personalized learning as follows:

Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.[5]

Typically technology is used to try to facilitate personalized learning environments.[6]

According to researcher Eduard Pogorskiy:

ICT and communications technology can be a powerful tool for personalized learning as it allows learners access to research and information, and provides a mechanism for communication, debate, and recording learning achievements. However, personalized learning is not exclusive to digital technologies or environments. In the rhetoric around 21st Century Skills, personalized learning is often equated with 'customization' (as found in the business world), with digital personalization used to the frame the learning experience as highly efficient. Problematic in this is the discounting of the highly relational and socially constructed space well defined in the research on learning. Narrowing personalized learning to its digital form also raises the concern of the echo chamber effect emerging in (hyper)personalized online experiences.[7]

Instructional design[edit]

Proponents of personalized learning say that many elements of curriculum, assessment and instructional design must be present in classrooms for students to succeed and often use software systems to manage and facilitate student-led instruction. Proponents argue that classroom learning activities must build upon students' prior knowledge and teachers need to allocate time for practice. Advocates argue that teachers must continuously assess student learning against clearly defined standards and goals and student input into the assessment process is integral.[8][9][10]


Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley write that while there are advantages in students being able to access information instantly on-line, one should not mistake such processes for "something deeper, more challenging, and more connected to compelling issues in their world and their lives."[11]

Alfie Kohn wrote that while personalized learning may sound like a useful strategy for education, in practice it's mostly just about selling technology products. Personalized learning promises a strategy to specifically adjust education to the unique needs and skills of individual children, he argued, but really it means merely "adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students' test scores... [and] requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week". While "certain forms of technology can be used to support progressive education," Kohn wrote, "...meaningful (and truly personal) learning never requires technology. Therefore, if an idea like personalization is presented from the start as entailing software or a screen, we ought to be extremely skeptical about who really benefits."[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Epstein, Sam; Epstein, Beryl (1961). The First Book of Teaching Machines. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, Inc. Programs can only be designed by highly trained human beings who, through the teaching machine, can reach countless students and enable each to take an active role in a highly personalized learning environment. 
  2. ^ Fiedler, Sebastian.; Väljataga, Terje (2011). "Personal learning environments: concept or technology?". International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments 2(4): 1–11. 
  3. ^ "7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments" (PDF). EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. 2009. Retrieved Apr 14, 2016. 
  4. ^ The Personalisation by Pieces Framework: A Framework for the Incremental Transformation of Pedagogy Towards Greater Learner Empowerment in Schools. 2006. ISBN 0954314743. 
  5. ^ "Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update". Retrieved Jan 19, 2017. 
  6. ^ Al-Zoube, Mohammed (2009). "E-Learning on the Cloud". International Arab Journal of e-Technology. 1 (2): 58–64. Retrieved Apr 16, 2016. 
  7. ^ Pogorskiy, E. (2015). "Using personalisation to improve the effectiveness of global educational projects". E-Learning and Digital Media. 12 (1): 57–67. Retrieved Mar 1, 2016. 
  8. ^ Patrick, Susan; Kennedy, Kathryn; Powell, Allison (Oct 2013). Mean what you say: Defining and integrating personalized, blended and competency education (Report). International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved Mar 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ Lindgren, R., & McDaniel, R. (2012). Transforming Online Learning through Narrative and Student Agency. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(4), 344–355.
  10. ^ Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2000). An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational Technology Research & Development,48(3), 23–48.
  11. ^ Hargreaves, Andy, and Shirley, Dennis. The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change. Corwin, 2009, page 84.
  12. ^ Alfie Kohn (Feb 24, 2015). "Four Reasons to Worry About 'Personalized Learning'". Psychology Today. Retrieved Apr 17, 2016. 

External links[edit]