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How to Personalize Learning


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Table of Contents

Foreword Acknowledgments About the Authors Introduction 1. Build a Common Language Define Personalized Learning Shared Vision Shared Beliefs 2. How Learners Learn Best UDL Principles and Guidelines Access, Engage, and Express Develop the Expert Learner 3. Develop Learner Agency Voice Choice Engagement Motivation Ownership Purpose Self-Efficacy 4. Discover the Learner in Every Child Who I Am as a Learner Learner Profile (LP) Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) Personal Learning Plan (PLP) 5. Personalize Learning for a Whole Class Class Learning Snapshot (CLS) Class Learning Toolkit (CLT) 6. Lesson Design With All Learners in Mind Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Process UDL Solutions and Strategies Lesson Design 7. Delve Into Deeper Learning Project-Based Learning Key Understandings and Learning Standards Driving Questions Meaningful and Relevant Focus Assessment AS Learning Reflection Makes Learning Visible 8. Learner Agency Across the Stages Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE) and Learner Agency Crosswalk of Learner Agency Across the Stages of PLE 9. Create a Culture of Learning Nurture a Positive School Culture Build a Culture of Learning Redesign the Learning Environment Connect the Dots Create a Rationale to Personalize Learning Glossary References Index

About the Author

Barbara Bray is a writer, speaker, instructional designer and creative learning strategist who enjoys connecting people and ideas around transforming education. She has focused on creating learner-centered environments for over 25 years and coined the term "Making Learning Personal" in 2000 because she believed that education really needed to be all about our learners and learning first. Not only is Barbara focusing on personalizing learning, she posts on Rethinking Learning ( and is the Founder/Owner of My eCoach ( My eCoach is based on a coaching platform for teachers because they are learners too and need ongoing support as they change teaching practice. She wrote the professional development column for CUE for 17 years and received the CUE Gold and Platinum disks for her contributions to educational technology for the advancement of teaching and learning. Barbara is passionate about writing, sharing stories of transforming learning, and facilitating change. She is encouraged when she sees teachers and administrators immersing themselves in challenges that stretch their minds and imagination. She loves combining the neuroscience of learning with the design-thinking process and project-based learning in a learner-centered environment. Barbara helps schools and organizations develop sustainable coaching programs, design professional learning to transform teaching practice and guide the redesign of flexible learning spaces. She enjoys working with leadership teams in guiding change so all stakeholders are committed to a shared vision around teaching and learning. Barbara lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her best friend and husband Tom, who she has been married to for forty-six years. She is grateful for her sisters Sandy Ritz, Terry Leach, and Janet Ritz for their ongoing support over the years. Barbara feels so lucky to watch how her two creative children are passionate about what they do and how they live, Sara Zimmerman and Andrew Bray, and for her amazing granddaughter, Cali who constantly shares what she has learned and creates on her own. Barbara wants to thank her friends and family who inspire her to follow her purpose to make learning personal for all learners. Kathleen McClaskey has been on mission the last three decades to level the playing field for all learners and to assist educators in discovering the learner in every child. In her career, she has been a middle school teacher, K-12 administrator, professional developer, innovative leader, author, and futurist who believes that everyone on the planet is a learner. As an educational technologist for over 33 years, graduate instructor in MA and NH and an Universal Design for Learning consultant, she has worked worldwide in training thousands of teachers in using tools to instruct all learners in the classroom. She most recently had the opportunity to go to Dubai to keynote and train teachers in the Middle East on personalized learning. Over the last 15 years, Kathleen directed and designed the professional development using Universal Design for Learning as the framework in multiple technology-based projects in math, science, literacy and autism to build 21st Century classrooms and sustainable learner-centered environments. She is passionate in empowering learners with tools, skills and learning strategies so that they can become independent learners with agency who can realize their hopes and dreams and have choices in college, career and life. Kathleen is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Personalize Learning, LLC, founder/owner of EdTech Associates, Inc. and the President and Advocacy Chairperson for the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education (NHSTE), an affiliate of International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Her advocacy work has expanded 10 years in Congress, advocating for legislation and funding for educational technology during that time. In 2012, she was awarded the ISTE Public Policy Advocate of the Year Award. Kathleen lives in New Hampshire with her husband and best friend, Jim, who she has been married to for 43 years. She has two wonderful sons, Joshua and Seth and two handsome grandsons, Austyn and Benny who all continue to serve as her daily inspiration to personalize learning for every learner. She is thankful to have family, friends and colleagues that have supported her lifelong mission to level the playing field for all learners.


"Many teachers are familiar with UDL, and they may want to try it in their classrooms, but they just don't know how to get started. With this book, educators don't just learn about UDL, they do UDL as they complete a number of activities designed to get them thinking about their most deeply held beliefs about learning and ease them into a new role as the "lead learner" in their classrooms." -- Luis Perez, Inclusive Learning Consultant
"If you are looking for a step-by-step guide on what personalized education is and how to implement it, while being inspired and gaining ideas to implement immediately, this is definitely a book to read!"
-- Diana Petschauer, Assistive Technology Professional, CEO
"As the title suggests, Kathleen and Barbara have prepared some really solid, practical "how to" guidelines for educators looking to understand and achieve the promise of personalizing learning." -- Steve Nordmark, Chief Academic Officer
"This book will provide you and your team the steps towards personalising learning for your students. It involves your input throughout with activities that are built around personalised learning principles." -- Kevin McLaughlin, Kindergarten Teacher
"Your learning journey about creating and sustaining personalized learning environments just became so much easier! Kathleen and Barbara's field guide provides a clear and well signposted path forward to transforming any learners journey. As an experienced educator and professional development consultant, I found Barbara and Kathleen book highly readable, incredibly practical and full of useful strategies to move educators from just discussing ideas about personalized learning to actively implementing and growing a personalized learning culture." -- Greg Alchin, Inclusive Design Consultant

"This guide provides actionable steps for all educators, from the busy main office to the crowded classroom, to develop the culture, expertise, and strategies needed for truly personalized learning. Once implementation is rolling out, Bray and McClaskey provide guidance for professional reflection and growth along the way. Personalization provides benefits to all stakeholders and this book helps all stakeholders understand their roles and how they will grow through the experience."

-- Kerry Gallagher, Digital Learning Specialist and Director of K-12 Education

"Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey are leaders in how to personalize learning for all learners. How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper breaks down personalizing learning in a way that not only makes good sense, but that makes it easy for educators to do what they know is right for their learners. This easily followed guide helps educators build on their learners aspirations, talents and interests to access, engage, and express learning by building on the learner's strengths and challenges. This guide helps educators give earners are given agency in their own learning while meeting standards. This guide will help classrooms come alive with engaged, excited learners whose learning will not only meet, but go beyond standards. This is not a 'new' or 'novel' fad, but a common sense approach that incorporates proven pedagogues and technology in a logical, effective way that is based on neuroscience and UDL principles. The many examples of successful personalized learning cultures will inspire and shape the future of teaching and learning."

-- Linda K. Taber Ullah, Coach and Instructor

"If you are a teacher who has wondered if it is really possible to personalize learning for all students, this book is for you! Grounded in a shared vision and beliefs, Bray and McClaskey provide practical steps to guide teachers through the process of discovering the unique learner in every child. Furthermore, the reader is coached on how to personalize for an entire class, with practical advice, activities, and hands-on tools. This is more than just the typical 'education needs to change' book. This is practical guide for teachers to actually make changes to positively transform education as learners become owners of their own learning."

-- Jon Tanner, Director of Technology and Personalized Learning

"How to Personalize Learning is the book every school needs their teachers to read. The authors take teachers on an enlightening journey where they reflect on how they uniquely learn. This book also is a guide with practical ideas and many resources to help teachers make learning accessible and engaging to all students. This book is for the teacher with the big heart who wants to ensure every student leaves wanting to continue their learning journeys."

-- Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Teacher, Speaker, and Author of the 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers

"How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper is a rich resource for any in-service or pre-service teacher, school or district administrator, special educator or parent. This practical guide steps the educator through a comprehensive, yet individualized plan for meeting the needs of any learner. In my 25+ years of working with teachers and with school administrators, what I most appreciate about this guide are the numerous case studies and tangible examples of how the practices work in the real world."

-- Dr. Cynthia Sistek-Chandler, Associate Professor

"Educators must change their perspectives of both teaching and learning to be in a position to grow citizens prepared to thrive and excel in our changing world. This field guide lays out the foundation for both leadership and classroom practitioners to begin this journey by understanding the changing landscape and providing practical applications of personalized learning pedagogy."

-- Cynthia Dunlap, M.Ed, Educational Technology Consultant

"In this compact and powerful book, Kathleen McClaskey and Barbara Bray offer teaching teams, school leadership groups and whole faculties a way to engage learners in managing their own learning. Writing for use in workshops or whole-school professional development initiatives, Bray and McClaskey present well-tested strategies for personalization within a coherent framework. The book begin with background ideas for personalization, but moves quickly into specific exercises that any group can use to organize a personalization initiative one step at a time. Each section includes illustrations and 'conversation starters' that gather individuals toward shared understanding of collaborative school development, allowing teachers to apply and adapt effective practices together. I see How to Personalize Learning creating a comprehensive guide for managing a long and complex process, preparing all learners to assess themselves, build skills, work toward personal and academic goals - and build the skills and knowledge that help them move toward a future they discover for themselves. This is a highly practical book that forms a reliable foundation for empowering any school community striving to make our schools work for all learners."

-- John H. Clarke, Professor Emeritus, Author of Personalized Learning

"How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper is the comprehensive, step-by-step guide to personalizing learning. But, moreover, this book is a transformative treatise for all levels on catalyzing enhanced efficacy-from community culture to the classroom learner-so that personalized learning becomes a reality in even the most traditional classrooms. Whether you are the community member that dares to think differently or the classroom teacher that knows deep down that something just isn't working, How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper is the seminal book to get you started on your personalized learning journey."

-- Patrick Riley, Cognitive Coach

"Kathleen and Barbara have already inspired us to Make Learning Personal: The What, Who, WOW, Where, and Why, but now they have given us some points of entry that we can start with tomorrow in How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. The What, Who, WOW, Where, and Why now have an important next step for teachers wanting to put learning back into the hands of the learner."

-- John Parker, Chief Technology Innovation Officer

"Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey continue to demonstrate how they are two of the leading ladies of personalized learning with their practical and positive portrayal of a learner-centered approach to education. They combine the research base of our profession with evidence based models of educational practitioners around the country to clearly illustrate what it means to personalize learning. Barbara and Kathleen have captured the essence of next practices over best practices by providing a timely "how-to" manual for preparing community, college, and career ready learners who understand they are in charge of their own learning. How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper provides a highly interactive approach to professional learning, with numerous activities and web-based links to enrich the readers experience. What I appreciate and admire with Barbara and Kathleen's new book is their relentless emphasis on the practical steps educators can take to transform their classroom and school for the benefit of the learner. The book is conducive to professional learning community team studies or for individual educator reading and reflection, but both with the intent and practical steps to transform how teaching and learning take place in your context. I am excited to place this companion book to Barbara and Kathleen's Make Learning Personal, in the hands of everyone of our teachers for the purpose of creating passionate and purpose-driven learners who are in control of their own learning. How to Personalize Learning is the perfect read for an individual educator or team of educators whose goal is to prepare learners who will take control of their own learning as preparation for taking control of their own life as an adult."

-- Bryan Bronn, Principal

"Bray and McClaskey's first book, Make Learning Personal, does an outstanding job of defining personalized learning, developing common language and making a strong case for WHY this is good for our learners. This book is the perfect companion as it serves as a practical guide that moves educators from the abstract to the concrete, delving into the HOW to personalize learning. The examples, resources and activities are designed to guide educators through a transformation from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered environment where all learners can thrive."

-- Betty Wottreng, Director of Technology Services

"Fundamentally different from other Personalized Learning books, and hands-down the best! How to Personalize Learning is a user's guide designed by experts who personally & professionally relate; Kathleen and Barbara simply 'get it.' The expertise and knowledge as well as personal experience shines through in this user friendly and practical guide for implementation of personalized learning. I love what they have done to make significant and much needed change less threatening and more useful for teachers. (They know how to teach learners, including adults reading this book)! In particular, the visuals, charts, matrices, and how-to guides are so user friendly and informative, this is what every educator wants for their learner, and how to make it happen, with support! This book provides teachers with a tool to refocus and keep their best practices while helping them to identify those areas of instruction where shifts need to occur, and the 'how to' to make it happen! So inspiring, engaging and motivational, and the companion website for technology and sharing is awesome!"

-- Diana Petschauer, ATP, CEO
"Bray and McClaskey are arguably the foremost champions for personalizing learning. How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper will be the compendium to personalize learning and a guiding light for educators as they navigate their journey with their learners to personalize learning. The tools, rich examples and insights included in the book will be instrumental in the transformation of students into learners. The current education climate is moving away from the one-size-fits-all learning environment that we have all endured through generations of schooling. Barbara and Kathleen have penned the antidote to what ails the current traditional educational system." -- Pam Lowe, Educator & Education Consultant/Coach, Author of Missouri Then & Now: Activity Book

"Barbara and Kathleen have done it again! This book provides such essential explanations and tools that any person reading it should be able to immediately construct their personalized instruction and learning environment. The multiple options for activities help teachers apply their personal preferences to more deeply connect with this work. This book even further demonstrates how important it is to make learning personal."

-- Kecia Ray, Executive Director
"Your learning journey about creating and sustaining personalized learning environments just became so much easier! Bray and McClaskey's field guide provides a clear and well signposted path forward to transforming any learner's journey. As an experienced educator and professional development consultant, I found their book immensely readable, incredibly practical and bursting with useful models, strategies and activities to move educators from just discussing ideas about personalized learning to actively implementing and growing a personalized learning culture. It really is THE Rosetta Stone of personalized learning. No other resource so deftly distills the WHAT and the WHY with the HOW TO of personalized learning." -- Greg Alchin, Inclusive Learning Design Consultant

"For educators and learning communities that are ready to dive deep into transforming their learning expectations and environments, this book is an essential resource. The combination of field experiences and models, vetted resources to make learning active, rather than passive and the structures provided to support personalizing learning in any learning experience, makes the resource so important. Educators can rely on the information from these rock-stars of personalized learning, knowing that it is as current as it can be, provides contacts and resources to follow-up with and moves the theory of personalizing learning into practice."

-- Caroline Patrie, Innovation Coach
"How to Personalize Learning is a valuable guide for educators at all levels of knowledge around personalizing learning, PBL, and UDL. A new teacher can use it like a how-to manual to go step-by-step through the book, promoting learner voice and choice while developing engaging lessons and projects. These steps help teachers create activities in their lessons or projects that focus on both empowering learners in their learning, and strategies that focus on the end-goal of what needs to be accomplished. Most teachers can pull key components and activities out and use this book to enrich what they are already doing to meaningfully engage learners. Seasoned, 'master' teachers will benefit from the usable tables and 'Conversation Starters' which can act as cues to remind every teacher that they are learners first, that best practice is still practice, and that our practice can always be improved." -- David Truss, Lead Administrator and Vice Principal

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