What does personalized learning mean?

Experts weigh in

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.

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