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Developing a Project-Based Personalized Learning Framework

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Tuesday, June 25, 1:15–2:15 pm
Location: 121AB, Table 1

Presentation 1 of 4
Other presentations:
Linking Theory, Research and the Practical Application of Technology Tools for Assessment
Teacher Perspectives on Hybrid Approach to Elementary STEM PD
Cultivating Blended Communities of Practice to Promote Personal Learning

Dr. Rand Hansen   Dr. Brandie Shatto  
We'll share a two-phase research project that will offer attendees a working definition of personalized learning, a framework for the design and implementation of project-based learning activities at the classroom level, and ideas for offering professional development of the framework to preservice and in-service educators.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Professional developers
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: None
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Personalized learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Preservice teacher education, Inservice teacher education
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Proposal summary


In Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology calls on educators to design learning experiences for learners that are personalized, engaging, and relevant. The Office defines personalized learning as “instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner” (p.12). As such, personalized learning provides the opportunity to create learning experiences that go beyond providing all learners the same educational opportunities and resources to the creation of learning experiences that meet each child where he is and provide an array of instructional strategies, resources, and content appropriate for his needs, strengths, and interests (Wolf, 2010). Personalized learning can be implemented at all grade levels and in any content area and empowers learners by focusing on their abilities and giving them a voice in their own learning. It encourages educators to be more flexible and open and to allow learners more autonomy in designing their own learning paths (Grant & Basye, 2014).

The concept of personalized learning is not new and advances in content and digital technology have placed it within greater reach for schools. However, it remains difficult to implement in individual classrooms because there is no agreed upon framework or model for implementation. As, Basham, Hall, Carter, Jr, and Stahl (2016) note, “The reality of personalized learning is that although it sounds like an excellent proposition for education, there is not consistent understanding on what it truly means and little understanding on how to actually design and implement a personalized learning environment appropriate for all learners” (p. 127).

The studies that do exist on personalized report positive results. In a report commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, learners in schools using personalized learning strategies made greater academic progress, over the course of two years, than a comparison group of learners with similar academic performance and from schools with similar demographic profiles (Continued Progress, 2015). This suggests that personalized learning is a promising practice, if educators have the necessary support for implementation. However, to provide this support, it is necessary to collect information about best-practices in personalized learning and to create a framework for implementation. Participants at the 2014 National Summit on Technology Enabled Personalized Learning agree. They found that there is a need to study “how educators and researchers use data, how technology is architected to support learners and associated pedagogical practice, how to educate personnel who are prepared to work in personalized settings, and how content and curriculum are developed to support personalized learning” (Basham et al., 2016, p. 134).

As a follow-up to their call for personalized learning experiences for learners, the Office of Educational Technology released specific guidelines for colleges of teacher education. In the report Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation: Policy Brief, the Office released guiding principles for teacher preparation programs to consider how to better prepare pre-service teachers. Among these principles is to “Ensure pre-service teachers’ experiences with educational technology are program-deep and program-wide, rather than one-off courses separate from their methods course” (p.9). Teaching our pre-service teachers about personalized learning provides an opportunity for them to explore educational technology in the context of the instructional strategies they are learning about in their coursework.


The purpose of the Project Based Personalized Learning project was to determine the process and effectiveness of using Personalized Learning projects in a K12 science classroom. This study utilized a mixed methodology approach for collecting data using a pre and post survey of students and teacher, interviews, and analysis of county wide assessments. The participants included 30 high school students from a large suburban district enrolled in a Marine Biology class. The participants, their parents or guardians, the educator and the school principal were advised of the purpose and procedures of the study. Informed consent was obtained from all participants and steps were taken to protect confidentiality.

The results from surveys were quantitatively analyzed as well as qualitatively analyzed through a multistage inductive process. The information was organized, carefully read, and all narrative responses reviewed. The second step was to identify themes and categorize the data through the coding of the emerging and recurrent concepts. The third step was to describe the themes that were observed from the responses and determine the frequency of recurring concepts. Data from the end of unit exams was quantitatively analyzed and compared to data from other courses in the school and county. The final step is to work with teachers to design professional learning experiences that promote the personalized learning framework and assist teachers with implementation.


The first part of the Personalized Learning project occurred during the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters and consisted of three different phases. During the first phase, planning, a K12 educator and the researchers met to identify a specific content area and develop goals for the project. The development of a personalized learning path requires upfront organization and planning to identify potential paths and necessary scaffolding of resources and learning objects to support content development. Phase two of the project was the implementation of the framework and identification of elements in the evolution of the teacher’s role in support of learners during a personalized learning project. Phase three constituted post-implementation meetings with the teacher and short survey of learners on the effectiveness of their ability to manage their own learning during the personalized learning project. The first version of the framework was implemented during the fall 2017 semester. Based on the data and lessons learned, the framework was modified and implemented again in the spring 2018 semester. The second version of the framework proved very successful, with students who participated in the project performing better on a county-wide common assessment than traditional classes in their own school and in the county-. Qualitative data from students and the K12 educator were also supportive of the framework. This research project has now been extended and the second part is to develop training materials for other educators to implement the framework in their classrooms. The training materials will be evaluated via surveys and interviews with participating teachers.


Today’s educators recognize the diverse nature of contemporary classrooms. Educational strategies of differentiation, project based learning and Universal Design for Learning allow teachers to meet the individual needs and desires of learners. Additionally, technology tools and the ability to easily design and publish digital media provide even greater opportunities to create personalized instructional opportunities to meet the individual needs of all learners. The project based personalized learning approach provides educators the ability to create instructional paths and infuse technology tools that provide learners ‘voice and choice’ as they explore and experience content based on their interests. Furthermore, infusing UDL’s multiple means of representation strategy into the project based learning model provides learners additional motivation to demonstrate understanding in ways that fit their skills and abilities. The Project Based Personalized Learning Framework training program provides educators with a concrete approach to leverage best practices in both personalized learning and project based learning.

Teacher educators and teacher preparation programs have an imperative to continue to evolve, present innovative instructional design models, and infuse emerging technology to teach future educators how create engaging learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of all learners in our classrooms.


Basham, J. D., Hall, T. E., Carter, Jr. R. A., and Stahl, W. M. (2016). An operationalized understanding of personalized learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31(3): 126-136.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Continued progress: Promising evidence on personalized learning. Retrieved from

Dockterman, D. (2018). Insights from 200+ years of personalized learning. npj Science of Learning, 3(15): 1-6.

Grant, P., & Basye, D. (2014). Personalized Learning: a Guide for Engaging Learners with Technology. Eugene: ISTE.

Herold, B. (2017, June 20). Gates, Zuckerberg teaming up on personalized learning. Education Week. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation: Policy Brief. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. Retrieved from

Wolf, M. A. (2010). Innovate to educate: System [re]design for personalized learning—A report from the 2010 symposium. Washington, DC: Software & Information Industry Association. Retrieved from Learning.pdf

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Dr. Rand Hansen, University of Maryland Global Campus
Dr. Brandie Shatto, University of Maryland Global Campus (UM

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