What is personalized learning?

What is personalized learning?

12 Jan 2023

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Traditional learning methods expect all students to learn the same way. At a similar pace, with little to no consideration for the specific learning needs that an individual has. As we move away from an industrial society and into a digital age, people within education are realizing that this approach needs updating. In this CPD article, ‘What is personalized learning’ we will explore how personalized learning can be beneficial and ways to include personalized learning in the world of modern education.

What does personalized learning mean?

The personalized learning method first determines the context behind each student, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the different needs and circumstances of an individual. By doing this teachers can gain an insight into what is meaningful to that student and tailor this learning to meet any specific requirements that they may have. Typically, technology is used to try to facilitate personalized learning environments.

We store information based on meaning, and so when there is a personal correlation between the learner and the topic, they will be able to apply their personal experiences to the subject. This will give them a strategy that they can use to problem solve. Personalized learning celebrates what makes you unique as a learner and explores how these skills can make the learning journey more efficient.

Why is personalized learning important? 

When looking at effective learning and teaching, it is always important that students do not just remember what they have learnt in the short term; they should instead understand and be able to apply this in the long term. To think analytically about what they have studied and to take their knowledge with them when they leave the learning environment.

The personalized approach recognizes that one size does not fit all when it comes to obtaining information. For example, a class of 30 people who are taught the same thing at the same time but having completely different levels of understanding of the topic by the end of class. This could result in some students falling behind, when others are now moving on to the next subject. Personalized learning aims to prevent this by changing the pace of learning to the student and allowing them to decide how they want to learn. It gives learners a say in their own educational journey.

Personalized learning aims to ensure that learning is adapted to each student, rather than the student trying to adapt to forms of learning that may not work for them. This increases their motivation to want to learn, learning becomes something that is meaningful and interesting to them. For students, it becomes something that is no longer is passive but instead something that they can engage with, enabling every student to gain the most out of learning.

Importance of a personalized learning approach

What are some examples of personalized learning?

When looking to incorporate personalized learning, there a few common methods and approaches you can choose from. Some examples of personalized learning can include:

  • Student-conducted research - this gives students the opportunity to gain information on their own terms. It also allows teachers to monitor the ways their students learn independently.
  • ‘Flipped classroom’ style lesson plan - this provides flexibility for learners for how they retain the information individually. This particular method is great because it teaches everyone as a whole, however, provides the space and time for individuals to prepare beforehand, to go over the given feedback at their own pace. For example, students can receive an independent pre- reading task to complete at home on a chapter they will be analyzing as a class; to ensure each learner is confident with the information and does not fall behind in the lesson.
  • Peer learning - pairing individuals depending on both their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Technology - skype or zoom meetings instead of attending in person, to suit the needs of individuals that are unable to come into the office or traditional learning environment.
  • Task work, feedback and delivery of a project which is student lead. Students should be the ones driving their education forwards with only the guidance and support of a teacher.

Personalized learning advantages and disadvantages

While personalized learning can produce effective results and benefits for both learner and the teacher, it does not always work for everyone. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that can be found with a personalized approach to education.

Advantages of personalized learning

  1. Encourages individualism, a personalized approach can support the individual needs and abilities of each student when it comes to having an active role in their own learning. This encourages the learner to listen to what they want, and the path they want their learning journey to take.
  2. Self-paced learning increases confidence; teachers and students can set an appropriate pace and define goals that work for the student. Through personalized learning, individuals have the chance to understand the task in full before moving onto the next topic. Students will no longer feel behind educationally, which will give them a new increased level of confidence when learning.
  3. Better overall learning performance. By learning on their own terms, students are more likely to understand and engage for much longer with the subject matter. This can produce better outcomes and lead to improved knowledge retention.
  4. Can support the individual physically and emotionally. When a student can learn by their own means, this gives them a sense of belonging. They no longer feel isolated for not understanding the traditional routes of education and an interest in further learning can develop.
  5. Collaboration and Creativity. Students will be required to work with one another, share ideas, create new solutions and projects and provide one another with feedback. The more students collaborate, the more likely they are to develop new ideas that spark creativity and build ownership of their learning. (Find out more in our previous article.)
Pros and cons of personalized learning

Disadvantages of personalized learning

  1. Can become time consuming for the teacher/instructor. Personalized learning can take a lot of preparation and work when compared to other methods of education in order to understand the pupil’s needs, then to apply it to their learning.
  2. Not always financially practical. Generally, it can be more expensive to have an increase in educational resources to suit the needs of every student.
  3. Technology limitations can effect learning - personalized education technology can exacerbate the gaps between those with digital access and those without, as well as between those who are digitally able and technologically savvy and those who are not. Because students with disabilities have widely varying needs, without support from personnel, they may fall behind. 

Ways to include personalized learning in your classroom

So how do we put personalized learning into practice? Implementing the right learning strategies can really make a difference to meet learner’s needs and support them in achieving their learning goals. To get an idea of what personalized learning can look like, the following strategies can be used to get started with incorporating this in the classroom.

Learning profiles

An effective way to begin personalizing learning is to start by getting to know your students by creating a learning profile that would highlight the students strengths, the things they find challenging, their interests. It would give them the opportunity to voice how they learn so that they and the teacher can work together to achieve the best outcome. For example, does the student have a disability that could prevent them from going into the classroom to work, would they benefit from working from home?

Constructive feedback and going over data

Having a conversational approach to giving feedback from assessments is essential for understanding what a student needs to improve on. Instructors should actively go over their students data with them; the learner themselves can then contribute to what they need to work on next. Student led targets can be more accurate and effective for overcoming challenges. Using this information, the teacher will be able to decide which members of the class are ready to move onto the next topic. 

Altering the classroom layout

Due to there being various ability levels within the classroom it is not always practical to have everyone seated in rows. Altering the classroom layout so that there are group tables as well as individual tables to work from, can offer flexibility and can promote peer to peer learning. This way the students can make the decision themselves if they’re ready to learn something new with a group or whether they need more time alone to go over something they find challenging.


While there are clear benefits to personalized learning, it is still to be determined whether it is a suitable method to meet the needs of all students. In an organisational environment, the creation of personalized learning requires technology solutions to make it cost-effective and scalable. However, when used properly it can be considered an additional tool for those looking to improve learning outcomes.

Become a CPD accredited training provider

We hope this article was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you would like to provide training that incorporates personalised learning, or are looking to offer courses, workshops, eLearning and virtual events suitable for Continuing Professional Development, please contact our team to discuss in more detail.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a free online CPD record tool to help manage, track and log your ongoing learning, as well as store your personal training records and attendance certificates in one simple place, please go to the myCPD Portal page.

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