What does personalized learning mean?

By Suzanne Bouffard
August 2019
Vol. 40 No. 4
We asked five experts what it means to personalize learning for students and what role professional learning should play in these efforts. Reflective of the diversity in the field today, their responses reveal both commonalities and notable differences (for example, some see technology as central, while others believe personalization can happen without any technology at all). But all agreed on the importance of building educators’ capacity through high-quality professional learning. Susan Patrick President and CEO, iNACOL and co-founder, CompetencyWorks Personalized learning tailors learning to each student’s strengths, needs, and interests. Students co-construct their goals and have “voice and choice” in determining what, how, when, and where the learning occurs. Personalized learning is per person. That means each student receives the help he or she needs,

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Suzanne Bouffard

Suzanne Bouffard ( is Learning Forward’s associate director of publications.


Blazar, D., Heller, B., Kane, T., Polikoff, M., Staiger, D., Carrell, S. … & Kurlaender, M. (2019). Learning by the book: Comparing math achievement growth by textbook in six Common Core states. Research Report.

Cambridge, MA: Center for Education Policy Research, Harvard University.

Clayton, T.C. & Marken, S. (2019). What do teachers and students really want from ed tech? Presented at the New Schools Venture Fund Summit, May 9, Oakland, CA. Available at

Gross, B. & DeArmond, M. (2018). Personalized learning at a crossroads: Early lessons from the Next Generation Systems Initiative and the Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools Initiative. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Vice President, Publications | + posts

Suzanne Bouffard is vice president, publications at Learning Forward. She is the editor of The Learning Professional, Learning Forward’s flagship publication. She also contributes to the Learning Forward blog and webinars. With a background in child development, she has a passion for making research and best practices accessible to educators, policymakers, and families. She has written for many national publications including The New York Times and the Atlantic, and previously worked as a writer and researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Duke University and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. She loves working with authors to help them develop their ideas and voices for publication.

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