The Definition Of Personalized Learning

by TeachThought Staff

What is the definition of personalized learning?

From our perspective, the definition of personalized learning is ‘a learning experience designed for each student with their specific needs in mind.’

In personalized learning, content, pacing, sequence, technology, learning models, learning spaces, audience and purpose, and any other ‘learning component’ are adjustable according the knowledge demands, curiosity, genius, and learning purpose of each student.

The end result is, ideally, a learner who is literate in both the content and process of learning.

This stands in contrast to differentiated learning, which adjusts the same content for different students based on more limited aspects (i.e., readiness, interest, and learning profiles).

We’ve covered the difference between differentiation and personalized learning before, and David Warlick takes a similar approach in the chart shown below from his blog.

The contrast he identifies is similar to those voiced before (one is focused on teachers and performance, one on learners and knowledge itself), but interestingly he points out the the very different role of academic standards. Under the Individualized Instruction approach, the standards are “a rich set of institutionally and politically established competencies…that can be tested, measured, and converted into data…for refining instruction,” while Personalized Learning pursues a more “shallow framework of competencies” and is instead focused on the process of learning itself, which definitely makes sense in an information-rich world.

(Warlick also includes an interesting snapshot of the Google search trends for the phrases that somewhat reflect public interest and awareness for the respective terms.)

None of this means, of course, that standards-based learning can’t possibly be personalized, but the shift here in the reasons and pathways for learning is no small matter. What’s your take? What are the pros and cons for each, and what takeaways did you find here?

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad; *previously published at


1 Comment

  1. Anne Marie Cantwell

    This is a very interesting piece … I do feel however, that genuine and authentic teachers (certainly the ones I have worked with) do actually engage with Individualised, Personalised and Differentiated learning techniques in their day to day planning, teaching and reflection activities … albeit unknowingly or un-named as such.

    Meeting each and every child in your class as their unique selves and yet part of the group soul of that class is part of what releases the magic of a positive shared learning experience.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The following GDPR rules must be read and accepted:
This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.