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Personalizing the Learning Experience

By Dr. Kaye Busiek

There are a few questions on my mind today:  How can we prepare students to successfully learn without us?  How can we give them some autonomy and choice as we make decisions about learning?  How can we help them to more consistently form and answer their own questions?  How can we help them become comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, failure and long-term attention to the task at hand?  These and other questions are addressed in the article, Preparing Students to Learn without Us, by Will Richardson, as he addresses the pairing of personalized learning with a variety of instructional planning resources.

We have learned from experience that personalizing the learning for students requires us to discover their passions and their interests.  It challenges us to discover the unique learning needs of 20 to 30 students in each classroom.  It forces us to address the limitations of time, classroom space, funding, and other considerations that keep us away from more performance-based, inquiry-focused, technology-driven assignments.  What it does not do is render the teacher unnecessary.  On the contrary, it allows the teacher to partner with students as they address clearly-defined learning objectives and connect course goals to student-focused passions and personal curriculum.

What does personalized learning look like?  It is a classroom full of students who are selecting their own books to read, utilizing a variety of media to find answers to their questions, and creating products and artifacts that demonstrate how they have translated the learning in a personal way.  Students are encouraged to discover their interests by having probing classroom conversations and by studying multiple resources—sometimes provided by the teacher and sometimes found by the students themselves. 

Rather than submit the same defined assignment or product to the teacher, teachers may receive individual work that reflects students’ unique insights, content, and conclusions.  They may use Google Docs to update their progress.  They most likely will utilize a rubric that identifies appropriate use of such things as standards, objectives, blog posts, learning activities, and research.   In addition, students may use podcasts to record and share presentations that they give in class. 

Personalized learning requires the teacher to develop a new and exciting set of skills.  It involves being comfortable with the uncomfortable, and it clearly permits the teacher to allow the learner to engage in more self-directed, relevant, and interest-based choices about the path to meaningful, engaging learning.


Richardson, W. (2012). Preparing students to learn without us.  Educational Leadership, 69, 22-26.



  1. juliaab says:

    Do you think that reasoning skills out to be taught at an earlier age? Would it be a worth while investment for an educator to teach children by opening up the floor “what is write and what is wrong and why?” This would go along the line of personalized learning. But in the same token, the public systems are not always willing to keep up to date. Oh, many advertise they do, but there are too many who slip through the “cracks” due to the lack of financial and manpower resources. I also have to consider this one little thing. Teachers are being forced today to compete with the negative aspects of virtual realty like xBox. How do teachers make education as exciting as “Grand Theft Auto” or “Special Ops–kill or be killed”? I once got the attention of some pre-teens by letting them know they were lousy soldiers and would no longer be accepted because of their inability to be trained to become better soldiers. It worked but those were my three great nephews. But, my method may not hold up in the classroom.

  2. Nevaeh says:

    Unvielebable how well-written and informative this was.

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