Bringing Vision Into Focus: Georgia’s Journey to a Statewide Vision of Personalized Learning


Personalized Learning. Two words that at the same time inspire hearts and minds, and leave our pragmatic minds wandering.  

If you are anything like the educators and leaders in the schools and districts we at iTeach support, you are already a ‘believer’ in the promise of a learning experience that is personalized. You might even have your own working definition for what it looks like in your instance, and that definition may well be informed by the good work of organizations like Education Elements, iNACOL, Learning Accelerator, and other thought leaders. For us, here in Georgia, we were all so caught up in igniting the spark of this new paradigm, that we created some confusion, or at least some incongruence across the state. Some early-adopting districts spending money on redesign and consultation, create and communicate their own vision with their own language, leaving smaller or less-resourced districts unable to shoulder the financial burden of such work to pick at the bone and create Frankenstein models of their own.

Upon seeing this wild west manifest itself, my colleague Dr. Anissa Lokey-Vega and I set out to collaborate with those working toward personalized learning across Georgia to inform a state-wide vision. Many practitioners, leaders, and student interviews later, and after time in public K-12 and private Montessori classrooms, we published our first edition. While in no way do we assume this vision to be static, it’s our best thinking today. Rather than alienate those who’ve already worked so hard and come so far, we incorporated their voices and findings. What we’ve created is a distilled vision, one that all districts can associate with while maintaining their own personalized approach (see what I did there?).  

To distinguish personalized learning from traditional education, we‘ve identified nine essential conditions. This collection of conditions helps us with the varying interpretations of personalized learning and to really communicate a common vision.

We’d like to point out that efforts to establish all of the conditions of personalized learning can’t be done all at once, nor by a single educator. Establishing all of these conditions in a learning environment requires a systemic commitment to advancing personalized learning. All stakeholders have got to work together to break down educational barriers to personalized learning that are enshrined in laws, policies, evaluation instruments, and traditions that perpetuate a common pace and a common path for all learners. Each of us must begin by playing our own little part and tackle those conditions, which are within our realm of influence so that we can help move the system forward.  

You can read the full vision here.

Here are some key points about the Vision for K-12 Personalized Learning in Georgia that make it unique:
  • Personalized Learning is identified as a paradigm shift, which can’t be reduced to being defined as an initiative or strategy. It’s a big and deep change in how we ‘do school’.
  • The Georgia vision calls for students to have equal ownership and agency in learning environments, and in order to do that, they need to be able to activate their executive function. Executive Function is a prioritized condition of Personalized Learning, and refers to the skills and cognitive processes needed to plan and achieve one’s own educational goals. These skills, well established in cognitive science, are also the foundational cognitive processes the “Soft Skills,” “Essential Skills,” and “Social Emotional Skills” learners need for 21st-century college and career success.
  • Individual differences are viewed as assets, and these assets are incorporated into each learner’s path and pace through the content via goal setting and co-planning with the facilitating educator.
We would love to hear from you with ideas, questions, and suggestions as we iterate this vision. Georgia is continuing to move forward in the adoption of personalized learning as the future of learning and teaching. In 2019, we are anticipating the passing of legislation which will add Personalized Learning to the list of endorsements which educators may pursue for addition onto their teaching certificate. Now, the many schools and districts hoping to actualize PL will be able to hire educators who are primed and ready to implement this new paradigm.

A video unpacking the vision and its components is available here.

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stephanee stephens

Stephanee Stephens
Director, Kennesaw State University iTeach
@Stephsteph83

Education Elements
October 17, 2018 

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