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Educational Leadership Features Article by Great Schools Partnership Senior Associates

A Personalized Approach to Equity

From Educational Leadership

By Great Schools Partnership Senior Associates Becky Wilusz and Ken Templeton

True personalized learning facilitates more equitable outcomes by promoting success for more students. By designing classroom practices that embrace individual differences, personalization can add depth to the learning experiences of all students. Both achievement gaps and opportunity gaps have been documented for students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students living in poverty. Any definition of personalized learning that omits an explicit equity focus has the potential to amplify inequities for these students.

Drawing on our experiences coaching schools to use personalized learning to become more equitable, we have found five essential elements that help schools strike the difficult balance between providing flexibility for individuals and ensuring consistent outcomes for all students:

  • Learning focuses on a few common standards that apply to all students.
  • Students have regular opportunities to engage in higher-order thinking and transfer their learning.
  • Feedback and reflection are routinely incorporated into learning experiences.
  • A system of varied supports and extensions exists to help all students succeed.
  • Students have choice in designing the content, pathways, and products of learning.

In our discussion of each element, we point to practices that balance both personalization and equitable outcomes. We end by reviewing how the schools described earlier in this article use personalization to benefit all learners.

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