Notes From the Field: Personalized Learning

In 2015, CRPE kicked off a multi-year, multi-method study of district and regional systemic efforts to support schools implementing personalized learning. Personalized learning (PL) is designed to tailor instruction to individual students’ strengths, needs, and personal interests—often integrating technology—in order to boost student outcomes. Over the next two years, we’ll look across a diverse range of schools’ PL strategies to learn how early implementation is going in classrooms and to identify the opportunities and challenges—both policy and practice—to expanding these isolated models. Our goal is to inform future efforts to catalyze and sustain PL at scale.

We’re visiting 16 cities and 39 traditional and charter public schools across the country, representing the full K­–12 spectrum in urban, suburban, and rural communities. We’re examining how teachers shift their instruction to better meet students’ needs. We’re investigating the ways school districts, charter management organizations, and external partners can support and sustain educators’ efforts to personalize instruction. We’re examining how these efforts change the way resources are allocated in schools, and we’ll assess how students’ learning experiences change.

We’re excited to do this work and grateful to the schools, district leaders, and external partners for their candor and the opportunity to learn from their hard-won successes and challenges. We very much hope to give back to educators in the form of thoughtful feedback and analysis. But we know educators want and need much more timely feedback than traditional, rigorous research analyses typically permit. We understand how frustrating it can be for us researchers to parachute into schools to collect data, then disappear for a year or more only to surface with a report that at best seems out of date and at worst seems out of touch.

Through this “Notes From the Field” series we’ll share our early impressions from our city and school visits. We hope these more informal dispatches will provide useful jumping-off points for productive conversations and reflection. While we’ll produce formal reports as we get further into the nearly two-and-a-half-year investigation, we’ll do our best to share with you along the way some telling anecdotes from our field work and our emerging observations as we dive deeper into the project.

Please reach out with your own observations and feedback on Twitter: @CRPE_UW, #PersonalizedLearning.

Read all the posts in the series below:

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