Cross-posted from EdCircuit, September 14, 2017 Issue

Everyone is a Storyteller

Personalize learning by empowering every learner to tell their story

by Kathleen McClaskey

As we embark on a new era where we plan to transform education by creating learner-centered environments and have learners take ownership of their learning, we need to first empower all learners to tell their story and how they learn. Where do you begin?

Personalized Learning Always Starts with the Learner

It is the beginning of the school year and you have been handed a list of your learners along with a set of numerical data that has been collected based upon their standardized tests over the last few years. What does this data tell you? It probably contains information about the strengths and weaknesses the learner has in literacy and numeracy and it may include how they are performing at grade levels. In some cases, you may be able to locate in your school’s data system the specific competencies your learner has mastered. But does all this information tell you how this learner actually learns? Consider the personal learning data: the strengths, challenges, preferences and needs in learning, the social and emotional side to learning, the affective side of learning.



Cross-posted from ASCD Educational Leadership, March 2017 Issue

by Kathleen McClaskey

Educators can use Universal Design for Learning to personalize instruction and realize the promise of learner agency.

What do we promise our learners as they enter the schoolhouse door each day? As we strive to educate all young people to become independent and self-directed learners so they have choices in college, career, and life, our promise must be for each child to develop learner agency. How can we fulfill that promise?


The Answer: Personalization

Personalization, or what is more commonly known as personalized learning, offers a great opportunity for learners to take ownership of their learning and acquire skills to direct and advocate for their own educations. Still, there is a great deal of confusion about what personalization is and what it means for teaching and learning.

A few years ago, my colleague Barbara Bray and I defined and described the differences between personalization, differentiation, and individualization in a chart. In summary, the distinct difference between these terms is that personalization is learner-centered, whereas differentiation and individualization are teacher-centered. With personalization, the student actively participates in the design of his or her learning and demonstrates mastery of the content in a competency-based system. With differentiation and individualization, the teacher designs the instruction and monitors the learning. The clear advantage of personalization is that the student is proactive in setting goals, monitoring progress, and assessing and supporting his or her own learning.

Read more…




Cross-posted from Education Reimagined’s Pioneering Issue, September 8, 2016

The UDL Lens: Empower Teachers and Learners to Transform Education

by Kathleen McClaskey

If we want to transform education and have each learner develop agency, personalized learning needs to start with the learner.

TRANSFORMING EDUCATION SO THAT EVERY LEARNER IS EMPOWERED TO DIRECT THEIR LEARNING and experience a great education is a vision we can all embrace. We have transformational models around the country where learner-centered, personalized learning environments are creating proactive learners—directing their unique learning experiences and monitoring their progress, while simultaneously using the latest technologies to support their learning.

In these models, trust and respect are embedded in the school culture. These characteristics are developed in schools where teachers are empowered to create learner-centered environments relevant to their community of learners and to personalize their professional learning where they are designing their learning experiences.

But the big question is, how can we transform education so that every learner gains the skills to be a self-directed, independent learner—a learner with agency?

Personalized Learning Starts with the Learner

First and foremost, we must believe that “every child on the planet is a learner.” Creating learner-centered environments begins with that belief. For too long, we have been using learning styles to determine how a child learns—labeling them as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. Over the last 40 years, the research around learning styles has shown that these labels perpetuate the stereotyping of learners (Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2008). As a result, many children have developed a fixed mindset on how they learn. It is also common practice to use these labels in developing how we perceive who these learners are or who they could be.

If we want to transform education and have each learner develop agency, personalized learning needs to start with the learner. So, we need to turn the page from “learning styles” to neuroscience, which shows us how we actually learn.

Over two decades ago, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was introduced by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) as a set of three principles, based on the study of neuroscience, to guide the design of learning environments and curricula that could reduce the barriers to learning and maximize the levels of support and challenge to all learners. For the UDL principles to be used in practice by both teacher and learner—such that they would become a part of the common language—new terms needed to be developed. Thus, in 2012, Personalize Learning introduced the UDL lens of Access, Engage, and Express.

• Access for Multiple Means of Representation

• Engage for Multiple Means of Engagement

• Express for Multiple Means of Action and Expression