The 5 Factors that Impact Learning and “How Learners Learn Best”

by Kathleen McClaskey

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Personalized Learning – What it Really Means

As a brief diversion, here is an introduction to what personalized learning means. It is foundational to understanding the 5 elements that impact learning.

As we have been diving deeper into the 5 factors that impact learning in our previous blog posts on Identity and Learner Variability, we decided to reintroduce these 5 factors with an infographic to focus on how “How Learners Learn Best” as it relates to this factors. This brought me back to my work on personalized learning and Chapter 3 of How to Personalize Learning that has this chapter title. The focus of that chapter was how we can help each learner become an “expert learner”, a learner with agency. It all begins with Identity, when we have a deep understanding of who we are, how we learn, and what we aspire to be. And when children understand, share and value themselves as learners, then they can begin to take action around their learning. And how can we have a learner create their identity?

Personalized Learning is not what is done to the learner or about tailoring the learning. It is about helping each learner to identify and develop the skills they need to support and enhance their learning so thatagency and self-advocacy can be realized.

Most recently, I was contacted by a long-term colleague and friend who wanted to use the definition I created for Personalized Learning in his work around personalized, competency-based learning. This definition was created four years ago as I was concerned that educational companies were misusing the term as they peddled their products to schools and promised that their product would personalize learning for their children. This furthest from the truth! 

Now Just Imagine if…

Go from Imagine if to…

The Empowered Learner!

Where to Begin to Empower Every Learner

We need to first inform ourselves on the in-depth research from the science of learning and development as well as the principles of Universal Design for Learning and then apply it to a practical processes using a common language around learning that can be used by educators, parents and learners alike. With a decade of experience in personalized learning in combination with the research on learning and UDL, the 3-Step Empower the Learner Process (aligned to the research-based Empower the Learner Framework) can be applied  in any learning environment where teachers and parents can guide and empower each learner to share how they learn best using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express so that they can begin to gain the personal skills and practices that are essential in developing agency and self-advocacy. 


Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2017). How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Transcend, Inc. Designing for Learning Primer, 2019.


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