Monday, May 2, 2016

UDL: The Lens to Personalize Learning

Tonight’s topic in #plearnchat was particularly important to us as we believe that Universal Design for Learning is the framework to personalize learning. All learners bring to every learning experience a multiplicity of talents, interests, and needs. In fact, neuroscience informs us that each learner's uniqueness is as distinctive as their fingerprints.

Learning for all learners is about access and how learners process information, how they engage with the content and use what they learn, and how they express what they know and understand. Not only is there a variability in learners, there is variability in learning as a learner learns. We have been taught to design learning environments for the average learner.

Learners vary on many dimensions of learning and our current education system is not age-appropriate. Fortunately, UDL guides the design of the environment so that it is flexible enough to address variability. UDL happens both in the design of the learning environment and in the use of the design to facilitate the appropriate, dynamic interaction between the learner and context. We had an engaging discussion about UDL and learning. We came up with six questions and used the Q1, A1 format. 

Here are a few of the tweets that we wanted to share with you where our participants shared their thoughts about UDL as the lens to personalize learning:

Mark Levine @LevineWrites

UDL is like a workshop that demands a myriad of space designs for learning and growing.

Shelly Vohra @raspberryberet3

UDL allows for a more open curriculum; need multiple entry points based in learners’ need; how do they want to learn?

Cheryl Oakes @cheryloakes50

When teachers plan to differentiate, we dictate how the student will access their education. When teachers use UDL the learners have choice.

Carol Frey Reinagel @MrsReinagel

UDL allows the learners to have a voice. We provide curriculum and objectives, the learner provides the pathway.

Congratulations to Patti Flynn for winning our book, Make Learning Personal.

Patti L. Flynn M.S. a team at Albemarle High School in Virginia with 10 years of teaching experience. she is endorsed in 6 different areas, and holds a Master of Science in Special Education, and another Master of Science in Educational Leadership. She is a huge music buff, and in her free time enjoys spending time with her children, or watching crime TV.

Follow Patti on Twitter @Ms_PFlynn

Save the Date

Our next #plearnchat is Monday, May 16th at 4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST and 7pm EST.

We archived the entire #plearnchat about UDL as the lens below for your convenience and as a resource.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Personalized Learning under ESSA? Here’s one idea.

Guest Post by Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is just over four months old, and it’s already dominating national, state, and local conversations about education reform. There is certainly a lot to get excited about in the new federal education law, including a long list of opportunities to make personalized learning a reality for every student in the country.

But these opportunities will only translate into results for students if stakeholders take advantage of them to design new systems of teaching and learning with high expectations and an aligned network of high quality learning experiences to ensure every student is challenged and every student succeeds.

In March, KnowledgeWorks released two resources to help states and districts think more deeply about ESSA through a personalized learning lens. First, we released a side-by-side to compare No Child Left Behind to the new opportunities for personalized learning in ESSA. Then, we created a guide with more detailed recommendations and guiding questions to support states as they begin to engage in design conversations about their state’s vision for teaching and learning under ESSA.

While we expect there will be many different and creative visions that emerge from states over the next year, here’s one possible scenario for how a state can advance personalized learning under ESSA.

A Sample State Vision for Personalized Learning under ESSA


The state’s accountability system incorporates academic and social and emotional learning measures that incentivize deeper levels of learning. Schools must show evidence that students are mastering deeper levels of academic competencies at a rate of growth to ensure proficiency in all core subjects by graduation.

School Improvement

Comprehensive and readily-available data from the state’s accountability system enables stakeholders to design proactive supports and interventions for all schools. In the few cases when end-of-year interventions are necessary, an extensive diagnostic review helps stakeholders develop a plan to ensure all students progress at a sufficient rate of growth to get back on track in time for graduation. While districts have the flexibility to design their own strategies for school reform, state resources and support align to a set of high-quality principles for advancing personalized learning.


A balanced system of formative, interim and summative assessments integrates multiple points of learning evidence and provides an accurate picture of each student’s learning trajectory. Summative assessments are administered in smaller, more frequent assessments throughout the year and include performance tasks to measure mastery of complex demonstrations of knowledge. All assessments are computer adaptive to help stakeholders better identify student learning needs and design a plan for improvement.

Educator Workforce

The state has developed a comprehensive set of professional competencies that reflect the skills and responsibilities teachers and leaders need to excel in personalized learning environments. The state’s pre-service, certification, professional development, and evaluation programs are all aligned to these competencies so teachers and leaders have the personalized support to embrace new roles and deepen mastery of professional competencies.

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs)

The state has aligned federal and state resources for ELOs to a statewide vision for personalized learning. Students have access to a state-monitored digital registry of credit-bearing ELOs, both inside and outside the classroom, that are aligned to state standards and competencies. Students and educators work together to design customized pathways to mastery that combine traditional instruction with ELOs.


We hope the national dialogue around ESSA continues to highlight the tremendous potential in ESSA to build an aligned personalized learning system. The success of this reauthorization depends on states’ ability to knit together these opportunities in a compelling and high quality way that increases rigor, student engagement, and college and career readiness so all students succeed.


Lillian Pace is the Senior Director of National Policy for KnowledgeWorks. Prior to joining the foundation, Lillian served as an Education Policy Advisor for the House Education and Labor Committee, where she worked on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. She holds a B.A. in public policy and journalism from Washington and Lee University and an M.P.P. from George Washington University. 

Follow her on Twitter: @LillianPace and LinkedIn.
To keep on top of education policy, check out Lillian's Blog.

BlogTalk Radio Podcast with Lillian Pace and Matt Williams from KnowledgeWorks on Personalized Learning under ESSA

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Continuum of Engagement: Conversations that Engaged Twitter

We recently wrote a blog post about engagement, Continuum of Engagement: from Compliant to Flow, where we explained that “engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught.”

Continuum of Engagement TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at Graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth

The blog post was centered around our Continuum of Engagement graphic we created to demonstrate the characteristics of learners as they move from being passive about learning to being in the flow. The continuum has sparked discussions on social media that we felt would be an insightful conversation in tonight’s #plearnchat. Here are some of the tweets and thoughts shared on this question:  “Learner Engagement: Is it authentic or is it compliant?”

Mark Levine ‎@LevineWrites

Sometimes administration looks at engagement as compliance, even when learning doesn't exist. Engagement is authentic learning!

Staci Mckee ‎@my4ccoa

I honestly think it's a bit of both. I feel learners are engaged when they are the ones who extend the activity and discussions.

Katrina Cade ‎@katrina_cade

Agreed. Just because students are sitting still and staring at the teacher doesn't mean they are engaged.

Mark Levine ‎@LevineWrites

Engagement is when learners are so entangled in the lesson that they can't think of anything else. They say, it is over already?

Nancy White ‎@NancyW

And they (learners) are asking questions that go beyond clarifying what they need to do for the assignment.

When learners have a choice and they are passionate about what they are learning they can get lost in a task or subject. This is called "flow" and you can see and hear the engagement. The sound of engagement sounds much like the energy you hear in a coffee shop. It’s palpable and can be detected from a classroom doorway. Listen and observe your learners; embrace their engagement and flow.

Congratulations to Lynn Spady for winning our book, Make Learning Personal.

Lynn Spady, @lynnspady, an enrichment specialist at Westside Community Schools in Omaha, Nebraska; is in her 19th year of teaching and feels truly blessed to be in such an awesome and rewarding profession!

Lynn shared, "While I have truly enjoyed each year of my career, I'd have to say the past 4 years as an enrichment specialist have been the most rewarding. I help students find and explore their passions and interests on a daily basis!" 

Save the Date

Our next #plearnchat is Monday, May 2nd at 4pm PST, 5pm MST, 6pm CST and 7pm EST. 

We archived the entire #plearnchat about engagement below for your convenience and as a resource.