Personalized Learning: Where to Begin?


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Leading change. Launching new initiatives. Driving improvement. Shifting a mindset. These phrases inspire some to turn visions into purposeful actions, but leave others with anxiety and trepidation. Typically, leaders present ideas, committees are formed, and plans are set. Responses are mixed, investment levels varied, but here we go…

Then what happens to slow progress or impede growth? After defining what we are trying to become, even the most well-intended contributors get caught in the reality trap. How can we make change happen? Voices of the “yeah but’s” emerge from the crowd and collect followers. Doubt infects momentum. Leaders expend more energy justifying actions with research and rationalizing intent through models of success. Unfortunately, the result is often greater distance from the intended outcome—retreating to the security of old habits and traditional practices. How do we escape this cycle in education?

We know the answer. Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk reminds us How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Establish purpose: start with the WHY.

Personalizing the Learning Process

Before we get personal, let’s get real. Beyond buzzwords and edu-babble, we need to establish common ground to reinforce our purpose. What are our truths as educators?

  1. We care about our students.
  2. We want all students to learn.
  3. We take pride in our profession.
  4. We are skilled at our craft.
  5. We impact lives.

With these truths in mind, we still face a major conflict: despite great efforts, we fail to reach every student, every day, as our motto proclaims. So what? Our professional obligation requires us to ask big questions. What if one of these students is our child? Our WHY can be located in finding answers to these questions.


After the significance of personalizing the learning process becomes clear, we may proceed. But before diving in or battling with logistics, educators must first personalize their approach based on individual understanding and readiness. Here is the advice I presented to educators at a recent professional development session.

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I also provided session participants a guide to reflect on their current practices and increase their understanding of personalized learning. I invite educators to utilize the reflection guide and realize how many components of the personalized learning model they already implement. While the process of where to begin may seem daunting, our efforts are validated by a clear purpose—reinforced by a simple reminder…

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