4 Elements Critical to Effective Personalized Learning

July 11, 2017

With the introduction of more rigorous standards and the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools are transforming to recognize and respond to individual student learning needs. Districts are focused on college and career readiness, preparing students with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a competitive global workplace.

To help students access more rigorous standards and close achievement gaps, personalized learning is a top priority for districts across the country, according to the Center for Digital Education’s 2015 Digital School Districts Survey. Personalized learning shifts instruction from curriculum-centered to student-centered. Students determine the path, place and pace of learning to best suit their individual needs. Teachers serve as diagnosticians, targeted learning facilitators and coaches, identifying and remediating learning gaps and using data to track progress and determine effective instructional strategies.

This innovative approach to teaching and learning is paying off. Schools that provide personalized learning opportunities have experienced: 

  • Increased student engagement
  • Increased student retention
  • Improved test scores
  • Higher grades and attendance rates


Realize the Benefits of Personalized Learning

Not all digital curriculum programs will achieve these results. Successful personalized learning programs have four characteristics in common.

  1. A strategic implementation plan
  2. Access to a rigorous digital curriculum that supports and differentiates learning based on meaningful assessment
  3. Professional learning for educators to adopt new approaches leveraging data to understand and respond to student mastery using a variety of instructional techniques
  4. Ongoing evaluation of program efficacy


Build a Strategic Implementation Plan

Prior to selecting curriculum tools, determine program goals, instructional models, and evaluation metrics. Plan with the end in mind to maximize the results of your personalized learning programs.

First and foremost, work to establish a common vision and measurable goals for your personalized learning program among all stakeholders — teachers, staff, parents, and students. Everyone involved in the implementation design, execution, and evaluation of the program must understand why it’s necessary and how it will function once it’s in place. Be specific, providing clear examples of the exact academic challenges your students face and how personalization will improve outcomes.

Learn more about building a successful implementation plan for a personalized learning program.

Select Tools to Support Personalized Learning

While an important factor to consider, technology does not create a personalized learning program; it is a tool that enables teachers to scale personalization through standards-based assessment, data dashboards, and personalized learning plans.

During the planning stage, determine which resources are necessary to execute your program and achieve your goals. A rigorous digital curriculum will be among your top needs. A high-quality digital curriculum includes many essential features and functionalities, including assessment tools to help teachers measure student mastery and to create learning plans that are personalized to provide instruction in grade-level concepts in addition to providing support where indicated to remediate prerequisite learning gaps.

Read our white paper for specific criteria for selecting quality, engaging, and accessible digital curriculum.

Create Professional Learning Opportunities

Teachers are essential to the success of personalized learning programs supported by digital curriculum. Without teacher buy-in and support, student, school, and district outcomes will suffer.

Get five tips for gaining buy-in and consensus for programs supported by digital curriculum.

Professional learning opportunities are key to helping teachers adopt personalized learning strategies in their classrooms. Learning opportunities can start simple — with program basics — then advance to more in-depth methods like interpreting data to identify rotating small groups for teacher-led instruction. Opportunities can be expert-led, or teachers can call on colleagues in Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to reflect on areas of concern and gather the ideas, materials, and strategies of those who have overcome similar challenges.

Review the four types of professional learning critical to effective personalized learning programs.

Evaluate Program Efficacy

Once a personalized learning program is implemented, it’s critical to measure success. Ongoing evaluation allows for continuous adjustments that maximize program effectiveness.

Quantitative and qualitative data should be reviewed each semester. Evaluation often involves:

  • Measuring the amount of time students utilize personalized plans
  • Observing classrooms to evaluate whole-group, small-group, and individual instruction
  • Surveying staff and students to gather qualitative insight into the impact of personalization on teaching and learning
  • Measuring longitudinal growth from unit pre- to post-tests, or increases in assessments such as NWEA MAP or grade-level benchmark assessments


Finding a Personalized Learning Partner

Implementing successful personalized learning programs can require a large expenditure of time. Partner with the experts in secondary digital curriculum programs to receive consultative design services and ongoing support to ensure successful program outcomes. Learn more about Apex Learning digital curriculum and success management services.


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