Personalized Learning Resources for Educators & Administrators

Personalized Learning Resources for Educators & Administrators

NB – The resource list below is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start for someone wishing to know more about Personalized Learning as it is emerging in North American schools.
I will add more in the future.
– Michael Maser


Definition of Personalized Learning from the BC Ministry of Education (2016)

[This is noteworthy because the BC Ministry of Education has been behind a push for more personalized learning in BC schools for several years, and is now introducing curriculum to support this, province-wide]

Personalized learning acknowledges that not all students learn successfully at the same rate, in the same learning environment, and in the same way. It involves the provision of high-quality and engaging learning opportunities that meet the diverse needs of all students. Schools may provide flexible timing and pacing through a range of learning environments, with learning supports and services tailored to meet student needs.
Personalized learning focuses on enhancing student engagement in learning and giving students choices — more of a say in what and how they learn — leading to lifelong, self-directed learning. Students and teachers develop learning plans to build on student’s interests, goals, and learning needs. Involving students in reflecting on their work and setting new goals based on their reflections  allows them to take more control of their learning. Personalized learning also encompasses place-based learning, where learning experiences are adapted to the local environment or an individual context.
– from BC’s Education Plan – Focus on Learning

Approaches to Personalized Learning

In reality, Personalized Learning is not a singular methodology but a suite or spectrum of approaches to supporting learning. I consider this spectrum to include:

Unschooling <–> Self-Directed Learning < –> SelfDesign Learning <–> Differentiated Instruction/Learning

I have known and worked with learners and learning families that thoughtfully shift back and forth across this spectrum of approaches. No child or youth that I’ve ever worked with has been adversely affected by dabbling or lingering in one of these approaches; nor has their learning been harmed by shifting from one to another. On the contrary, most young people who experience the full range of this spectrum are more self-assured and self-reliant learners.

Definition:  Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. It’s main patriarch is the late author-educator John Holt.

Growing Without Schooling‘ – a site dedicated to the late John Holt, kept current by a host thoughtful educators like Pat Ferenge and Dr. Peter Gray

An Unschooling Life (site by Unschooling author Grace Llewellyn)

Self-Directed Learning
Definition: Self-Directed Learning can be characterized as a learning experience in which individual learners maintain a strong measure of autonomy while completing a more-or-less formal project or investigation that is guided by advance planning and resourcing. A strong foundation for SDL was laid by Dr. Maurice Gibbons (professor emeritus, Simon Fraser University).

SelfDirected Learning  – site created by Dr. Maurice Gibbons (unfortunately it is presently offline)

Self-Directed Learning – Overview – Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo

Canadian Coalition of SelfDirected Learning – a directory of some Canadian public and independent schools dedicated to SDL approaches (sometimes this group is active, sometimes not so much)

SelfDesign Learning
Definition: SelfDesign Learning is an approach pioneered by the late educator Brent Cameron starting in the 1980s in his award-winning school, Wondertree. Later, Brent was joined by other educators (including myself) in forming SelfDesign Learning Community, now an online, government-certified independent school in BC Canada.
‘SelfDesigning’ is a ‘transactional’ or relational approach involving learners, parents and educators that seeks to bring awareness to one’s manner of living, and thus learning, and to optimize factors that might enhance learning. In some cases SelfDesigning can appear as a hybrid approach of PL, with characteristics of Unschooling, Self-Directed Learning and Differentiated Learning.

SelfDesign Learning Community – link to SelfDesign’s main school site

SelfDesign Graduate Institute – link to Washington-state-based institute offering graduate and certification-level studies in SelfDesigning  (I am on the faculty)


Differentiated Learning (AKA Differentiated Instruction / AKA Personalized Instruction)
Definition:  Differentiated Learning is a school-and-curiculum-based approach that helps provide guidance to classroom educators seeking to teach learners with differing cultural backgrounds, competencies, and learning experiences. It is a rapidly expanding domain of education, particularly in the United States where resources are being developed by some well-appointed organizations such as the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, George Lucas Educational Foundation (AKA ‘Edutopia’) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

–  Nellie Mae Education Foundation
–  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
–  Edutopia
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
nb – Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.
Students at the Center  
Next Generation – PL focus
A+ Personalized Learning Schools and Services (association and consulting services)

Hybrid Approaches
Inspire Charter Schools (California)

Flipped Learning

Flipped Classroom Workshop –  site for resources, lessons, news, etc., focused on Flipped learning approaches

Some BC-based Personalized Learning Exemplars  (schools and districts)

Independent Schools
SelfDesign Learning Community (online)
– Pacific School of Inquiry (Victoria)
– Hands-On Learning (formerly Oak and Orca) school, Victoria
– York House (Kindergarten; based on Reggio Emilio approach)

Public schools
– A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby
– Thomas Haney Secondary School  – Maple Ridge
– Meadowbrook Elementary (Coquitlam, SD 43; K – 5)
– Charles Dickens Annex?, Vancouver
– Maple Ridge Environmental School – now incorporating personalized project learning
– Reynolds Secondary (public) has some sort of independent, self-directed program

Government Direction

– British Columbia’s (new) Education Plan,  here.

Iowa Big


Text Resources (a few titles)

SelfDesign: Unfolding Our Infinite Wisdom Within; Brent Cameron & River Meyer, SelfDesign Learning Systems, Inc.; 3rd Edition, 2012  (see link here)

Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now; Michael Maser, SelfDesign Learning Systems, Inc.; 2011 (see link here)

The Self-Directed Learning Handbook; Maurice Gibbons (2002) [presently offline]

– books published by Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) focused on Differentiated Learning

Honouring the Child: Changing Ways of Teaching; by Pamela Proctor

– books by Thomas Armstrong (focused on Multiple Intelligences)

– and check out the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) bookstore for the grand-daddy collection of books focused on Alternate Ed (which often coincides with Personalized Learning perspectives)  (see link here)

Newsletters / Journals

Insights on Personalized Learning

International Society for Self-Directed Learning (journal)

Consulting Services

Personalize Learning 

Dreaming Dragon Consulting

TED Talks

Salman Khan (founder, Khan Academy):  authentic ‘flipped’ learning focuses on mastery; trad schooling shortchanges kids. Brilliant TED talk here.

(That’s it for now. I’ll add more in the future – MM)


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