An evaluation report from RAND focused on school-wide initiatives funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote teaching approaches touted as personalized learning. These reforms generally rely on digital technology and encompass a range of strategies, such as developing learner profiles with individualized goals, and using data to provide personalized learning paths in which students have choice, get individualized support, and engage in learning outside school. The research, which includes many high-quality elements, suggests that some of the studied approaches are associated with higher scores on a common assessment (the MAP). Broad conclusions about the efficacy of technology-based personalized learning, however, are not warranted by the research. Limitations include a sample of treatment schools that is unrepresentative of the general population of schools, the lack of a threshold in the study for what qualified as implementing “personalized learning” in the treatment schools, and the reality that disruptive strategies such as competency-based progression, which require the largest departures from current practice, were rarely implemented in the studied schools.
Penuel, W. R., & Johnson, R. (2016). NEPC Review: Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from https://scholar.colorado.edu/nepc/109
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