What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an educational experience and environment built around the needs and interests of each individual student, helping them to reach their full potential. In schools that have adopted a personalized learning approach, students develop the skills to become self-directed learners and the habits that lead to academic and personal success. This flexibility is supported by technology that allows teachers and students to create and carry out individual learning plans, track progress and collaborate. When technology is tailored to the needs of teachers and students, it frees up time for teachers to mentor students and collaborate with each other.

There is not one approach to personalized learning. Countless teachers and schools are developing their own ways to personalize the experience for every child, and those solutions often look quite different.


What does personalized learning mean at Bader Hillel High?

To equip students with the powerful and enduring skills needed for success in college, career and life, we:

  • Connect students’ long-term goals and aspirations to their daily decisions, actions, and behaviors;
  • Empower students as self-directed learners, armed with the habits, mindsets and behaviors that lead to academic and personal success;
  • Engage students in developing skills through deeper learning projects, where the college-ready content they are learning is applied in real, authentic situations; and
  • Nurture diverse and trusting communities of learners, allowing them to practice and model life skills and receive the feedback they need to individually grow and thrive.

Because the mission is not only to prepare students for college but also to succeed there (and beyond), Summit has identified four elements of college and career readiness that they believe influence everything:

  • Cognitive skills, or life skills, are the skills that help students become better readers, speakers, listeners, writers, and thinkers, such as problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. They are essential for lifelong learning, growth, and success.
  • Content knowledge, or facts and information, in history, science, English, language & literature, and math are fundamental to understanding the world.
  • Habits of Success, or social-emotional skills, such as managing stress, persevering through a challenge, and demonstrating empathy are needed to achieve goals and thrive in all aspects of life.
  • Real-life experiences give students the opportunity to bring all of their skills, knowledge, and habits together so that they can connect their learning to passions and potential careers.

What is the role of technology on the  Summit Learning Platform?

A  student’s day is organized around their goals, and the knowledge and skills they need to accomplish those goals, with the support of their teachers and their peers. They use computers – and the Summit Learning Platform – to track those goals and activities, and spend a portion of their week learning online. But with Summit, technology is not the engine – it’s the fuel that helps power teachers, and helps students navigate their own path.

What is the evidence that personalized learning works? 

The best evidence for personalized learning resides in the experiences of individual students, who get what they need to become self-directed learners and achieve their greatest potential in college and beyond.

In a personalized learning environment, a student’s success is defined by knowledge, skills, habits and mindsets.  Summit’s first 19 partner schools from across the country, part of the Summit Learning Program, accomplished their most important goal—building a strong culture that fosters personalized learning and allows it to flourish.  

Summit Learning teachers, students and families embraced personalized learning and shared how it had a positive impact on their lives:

  • 89% of teachers reported they would recommend personalized learning to other teachers.  And, a majority believed their students improved as self-directed learners who can set goals and make a plan to achieve them, which is critical to personalized learning.
  • 90% of students believed their choices in school impact their long-term goals.  And, more than 80% of students reported that personalized learning empowered them, and made them realize they could drive their own learning and success.  
  • 95% of parents reported they understand the importance of their children becoming self-directed learners.  91% of parents said their children can now learn anything by using resources and studying carefully.  And, 96% believe their students will go to college.    

Bringing personalized learning to classrooms is hard work and people should expect that it will take more than one year to see progress.  Based on Summit’s experience introducing personalized learning over four years ago, Summit Learning Partner schools performed as expected on traditional measures.  Summit Learning partner schools reported that:

  • Students were more engaged and excited about school, which resulted in increased attendance and better behavior.
  • On average, students achieved an academic year’s worth of growth in math and reading.  
  • Students who started the furthest behind made the biggest academic gains.
  • Based on available internal district and state benchmarking assessments, students either outperformed their district and state peers or grew more than previous years.

Since founding Summit Public Schools in 2003, we have held ourselves accountable to a vision that every student should be equipped to lead a fulfilled life. We’ve worked in partnership with nationally-acclaimed learning scientists, researchers, and academics to develop a model that supports this vision.

This summer, we published The Science of Summit, a groundbreaking white paper 15 years in the making that outlines our model and the research behind it, including an in-depth look at student outcomes. Today, we’re excited to share a new publication, A Guide to The Science of Summit, an introduction to the full white paper. Both reflect our effort to share what we believe about young people, the promise of public education, and principles for school design rooted in the science of learning.