Personalization and UDL: A Perfect Match

Cross-posted from ASCD Educational Leadership, March 2017 Issue

by Kathleen McClaskey

Educators can use Universal Design for Learning to personalize instruction and realize the promise of learner agency.

What do we promise our learners as they enter the schoolhouse door each day? As we strive to educate all young people to become independent and self-directed learners so they have choices in college, career, and life, our promise must be for each child to develop learner agency. How can we fulfill that promise?

The Answer: Personalization

Personalization, or what is more commonly known as personalized learning, offers a great opportunity for learners to take ownership of their learning and acquire skills to direct and advocate for their own educations. Still, there is a great deal of confusion about what personalization is and what it means for teaching and learning.

A few years ago, my colleague Barbara Bray and I defined and described the differences between personalization, differentiation, and individualization in a chart. In summary, the distinct difference between these terms is that personalization is learner-centered, whereas differentiation and individualization are teacher-centered. With personalization, the student actively participates in the design of his or her learning and demonstrates mastery of the content in a competency-based system. With differentiation and individualization, the teacher designs the instruction and monitors the learning. The clear advantage of personalization is that the student is proactive in setting goals, monitoring progress, and assessing and supporting his or her own learning.

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