At LEAP Innovations, we see personalized learning as lever not to reform education, but to transform it. We sought to develop an approach that gives teachers and school leaders the tools to redesign – to reimagine – their teaching and learning practices, to move to a model of education that is centered on the individual learner, and tailored to the unique needs, strengths and interests of each one.
To this end, we worked with practitioners, national thought leaders, and research partners to develop our framework for personalized learning – one that not only defines the core components, but provides actionable classroom strategies for implementation.
At the core of this work is the assumption that educational experiences personalized to individual learners will ultimately produce better outcomes, both in terms of student achievement and the development of non-cognitive skills. Although personalized learning is an emerging field, and there is already considerable empirical evidence on its relationship to student outcomes.
How did we analyze the research?
To explore the modern research base for our framework, our researcher spent months scouring key research databases including ERIC, EBSCOhost, Google Scholar and the What Works Clearinghouse. More than 600 studies and meta-analyses were reviewed for relevant evidence, and more than half of these are cited in exhaustive literature reviews that focus in on each of the four framework components.
The analysis focused on K-12 students plus foundational psychology studies and deliberately honed in on research conducted in the past two decades. Because the LEAP Learning Framework reflects emerging practices in personalized learning, we wanted our research base to accurately reflect the teaching techniques, technological advances and students of today. The studies included reflect a range of methodological approaches, with preference given to studies with the most rigorous approaches (experimental and quasi-experimental designs); qualitative studies are included when they are the most relevant to the specific practices.
This review reflects the current state of our evidence, and it continues to evolve. Many of these practices are nascent, and the research field has yet to catch up with rigorous, relevant studies. There is promising evidence for these practices, but refinement is needed-notably around measuring the quality of implementation. To that end, we worked with research partners to develop the first national teacher and student surveys and observation tool for personalized learning, as well as a set of standards, to begin measuring the degree of personalization in a classroom.
Is there emerging evidence to support this transformation?
In a word:yes. Our exploratory review of over 600 relevant research studies reveals a promising base of evidence for the elements of the LEAP Learning Framework, but some of these concepts are new and the evidence continues to evolve. Our work is rooted in the belief that a personalized education will ultimately produce better outcomes only if it is based on rigorous, empirical research-not what sounds exciting or new. The Framework will continue to be a living document that is updated regularly as we learn about what really works. We are committed to building the research foundation for these practices, to create better causal connections and to bring valuable data back to the public, parents, and educators making this work a reality on the ground in schools across our nation.
Who is our researcher?
Amelia Peterson – Amelia is currently at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where she is also an Inequality and Social Policy fellow. For her dissertation, she is studying patterns of change in school accountability and student credentialing for teens 15 to 19. Amelia came to Harvard from Innovation Unit, a London-based non-profit consultancy that works on public system transformation in education, health and social services. Amelia has been commissioned by a wide range of organizations (including the OECD and the World Innovation Summit on Education) and has contributed to projects on assessment, creativity, school leadership development, cultural and moral education, and deeper learning. In addition to her doctoral work, Amelia is currently the research lead on a project studying “human-centered systems design” in K-12 education.
MEASURING PERSONALIZED LEARNING
There is much evidence in the literature to support the core components of the LEAP Learning Framework. However, we must also address a need for new tools to measure the core components of personalized learning. To that end, we worked with American Institutes for Research to develop the first national teacher and student surveys for personalized learning, as well as a set of standards, to begin measuring the degree of personalization in a classroom. These surveys, rooted in the LEAP Learning Framework, are being taken now by hundreds of educators across the country.
We’ve also developed an observation tool, rooted in the strategies of the framework. Tying this observation data back to responses from the student and teacher surveys, we can paint a clearer picture of personalized learning in action, and then work to relate those practices back to improvements in student achievement.
By measuring teacher practice, student experience, and change over time using our survey and observation data, we’ll be able to identify better indicators of personalization in a classroom – increased student agency, for example, or increased utilization of student data to tailor instruction in real time. Using these indicators, we’ll be able to create better causal connections between personalized learning practices and student outcomes, providing valuable data back to the field and the practitioners themselves on which practices can make the most difference.