Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered Teaching

Personalized learning is gaining momentum across the nation, which means the role of teachers and the skillsets they need is evolving. To address this need, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Jobs for the Future (JFF) released this resource to outline the unique competencies educators need in order to create and thrive in effective personalized learning environments.

The Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered Teaching build on and push beyond the best existing teaching competencies and standards to capture what educators need in order to create and thrive in personalized, learner-centered systems. The competencies are organized into four domains.

Explore the four domains in the model:


Cognitive: Need to Know

The COGNITIVE DOMAIN consists of what teachers need to know in order to create personalized, learner-centered environments. These include both the knowledge of key subject matter content, and human and brain development that is needed in order to foster students’ content learning and metacognitive development (e.g., critical thinking, information literacy, reasoning, argumentation, innovation, self-regulation, and learning habits). View all domains.

Explore cognitive competencies

cognitive background
Content and learning progressions
Communication and Feedback Techniques
Perseverance and Motivation

Content and learning progressions

Utilize in-depth understanding of content and learning progressions to engage learners and lead individual learners toward mastery.

Explore Indicators
  1. Communicate the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the content area(s) (e.g., algebra teachers need to know the math; which algebraic concepts are most important, which are foundational, and which are more complex; and how to explain the math in multiple ways).
  2. Use knowledge of learning progressions and the cumulative nature of content matter in order to build students’ solid understanding of the subject area; identify misconceptions as they arise; and intervene to overcome them with individualized scaffolds, richer analysis or explanations, and/or more targeted forms of practice.
  3. Create, use, or adapt rubrics that clearly define what “mastery” looks like for key content-based concepts.
  4. Create learning experiences that make the content-based concepts accessible and meaningful (e.g., to understand the “why,” as well as the “how”).
  5. Present content-based concepts (both within and across disciplines) through a variety of perspectives in order to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, transfer, and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.

Communication and Feedback Techniques

Have knowledge of the sub-skills involved in effective communication and apply it to instructional strategies that develop learners into effective communicators.

Explore Indicators
  1. Break down the skills of communication in deliberate and supported opportunities for students to practice both through content and skill area(s):
    1. Offer demonstration opportunities publicly with peers and adults, and through written, oral, listening, and other means reflective of 21st century communication.
    2. Ensure students can perform the standards of discourse, academic language, and argumentation in specific content area(s).
    3. Whenever possible, ensure standards and assessments connect to real- world experiences and performances span diverse media (e.g., not simply reading a book report out loud).
  2. Apply feedback techniques
    1. Provide constructive feedback on communication skills.
    2. Teach students how to give and receive feedback on performance, draft work products, and learning strategies used.

Perseverance and Motivation

Understand and employ techniques for developing students’ skills of metacognition, self-regulation, and perseverance.

Explore Indicators
  1. Use modeling, rehearsal, and feedback techniques that highlight the processes of thinking rather than focusing exclusively on the products of thinking.
  2. Differentiate between behavior and learning outcomes related to self-regulation (ability to control and take responsibility for one’s own focus and effort), rather than perceived ability (belief in one’s capabilities and limits) and adjust interventions accordingly.
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with the concepts of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation to learn, using a variety of tools that support students’ ability to maintain high expectations for goals over extended periods of time.
  4. Know how to help students determine priorities and develop skills on how to choose between competing interests.

Instructional: Need to Do

Skills in the INSTRUCTIONAL DOMAIN describe what personalized, learner-centered educators need to do to bring distinctly learner-centered pedagogical techniques into the classroom. These include creating engaging and relevant curriculum, managing classroom dynamics, and using instructional approaches and methods that build toward and assess mastery. View all domains.

Explore instructional competencies

instructional background
Assessment and Data
Student Agency
Anytime, Anywhere
Project-based Learning


Use a mastery approach to learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Build curriculum units from essential questions, recognized standards, school-wide, and/or subject-specific competencies, and/or real-world problems to be solved.
  2. Determine students’ progress, advancement, and pace via various methods of demonstrated understanding of the content, skills, and application of learning goal.
  3. Customize and scaffold instruction, supports, and pacing so that all learners can master the content and fill gaps in understanding.
  4. Maintain a focus on high expectations for achievement while providing feedback and opportunities for practice, revision, and improvement.

Assessment and Data

Use assessment and data as tools for learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Apply the use of data (quantitative and qualitative) systematically to understand individual skills, gaps, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and aspirations of each student, and use that information to design and modify personalized learning paths toward meeting school, district, and state standards.
  2. Use multiple, frequent, and formative assessments —such as self-assessment, exit tickets, and student surveys—in a timely manner to engage learners in their own growth, to monitor learner progress, to guide educators’ and learners’ decision making, and to communicate with families.
  3. Facilitate students’ creation of a portfolio, exhibition, or other public showcase tool to serve as a culminating event at appropriate educational junctures.
  4. Develop, use, and involve the students in the creation of assessment tools that are flexible and that clearly articulate standards and criteria for meeting those standards.


Customize the learning experience.

Explore Indicators
  1. Recognize and integrate knowledge of individual learners, diverse cultures, and the community context in developing materials and pedagogy to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet rigorous standards.
  2. Co-construct and offer choice among multiple means for students to demonstrate mastery.
  3. Scaffold, customize whenever possible, and provide adequate supports and interventions to appropriately stretch each learner, informed by teacher expertise.
  4. Document and track learning trajectories that meet each learner’s readiness, strengths, needs, and interests.
    1. Update and refine pre-existing individual learning plans or co-design an individual learning plan with each student and family as necessary.
    2. Use the plan to build effective individual and collective learning experiences.
  5. Use technology to lessen the burden of tracking student progress, finding materials, engaging learners in different ways, and offer academic supports.

Student Agency

Promote student agency and ownership with regard to learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Encourage student voice and choice via strategies such as:
    1. Providing access for students to monitor their progress and set goals.
    2. Enabling curricular choice and co-design.
    3. Providing students with multiple options for demonstrating mastery of a standard or competency.
    4. Providing opportunities for students to contribute to classroom or school-based decision-making processes, including participatory action research, place-based education, restorative circles, and class meetings.
  2. Develop students’ abilities to self-reflect and self-regulate via strategies such as goal setting, self-assessment, and self-pacing.
  3. Develop students’ abilities to collaborate with peers via strategies such as peer assessment and project-based learning.
  4. Cultivate students’ growth mindsets.
  5. Help students manage their own behavior to optimize the learning environment for all.
  6. Engage in and positively influence students’ perceptions of their efficacy, interest, and purpose.

Anytime, Anywhere

Provide opportunities for anytime/anywhere and real-world learning tied to learning objectives and standards.

Explore Indicators
  1. As described in the interpersonal competencies, build relationships with families, community members, businesses, and others outside of the school to support communities of practice that enhance individual and group student learning.
  2. Align out-of-school experiences to the relevant academic competencies or standards, so that students may demonstrate mastery and receive in-school credit based on these out-of-school experiences.
  3. Demonstrate fluency with the curricular and personal aspects of providing a successful blended learning experience.
  4. Develop diverse physical and digital environments that maximize learning within, across, and beyond classrooms.

Project-based Learning

Develop and facilitate project-based learning experiences.

Explore Indicators
  1. Engage learners and other faculty in co-designing projects that stretch and deepen the learning experience.
  2. Use collaborative, cross-curricular projects to develop learners’ deep understanding of content areas, connections to applications beyond school, and skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways.
  3. Emphasize regular student reflection about specific questions that draw out the learning within the project.


Use collaborative group work.

Explore Indicators
  1. Develop, scaffold, facilitate, and where appropriate co-design collaborative group work.
  2. Analyze collaborative group work to ensure that it engages and stretches each learner and builds toward mastery of specific skills, standards, or student competencies.
  3. Foster students’ ability to identify specific teamwork skills necessary for collaborative group work that are similar to the skills and dispositions necessary for college, career, and civic success.
  4. Ensure students have developed the knowledge and skills needed for successful collaborative group work:
    1. clearly defined roles, purpose of collaborative group work, and understanding of assessments
    2. establishing structures for and practicing how to share ideas and benefit from ideas and skills of others
    3. practice in tools and techniques such as Socratic questioning and constructive feedback.


Use technology in service of learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Adopt, adapt, and create high-quality digital resources for curriculum.
  2. Enhance ability to provide real-time assessment and learning tracking with new digital tools.
  3. Employ the principles of universal design for learning.
  4. Provide opportunities for all students to learn in a digital setting (synchronous and asynchronous).
  5. Promote the development of “digital fluency” in students to enhance their ability to interact in our digital world.
  6. Discern when technology use in instruction improves engagement, collaboration, and learning, and when it does not.
  7. Promote collaborative and real-world project-based learning opportunities enhanced with digital tools and content.

Interpersonal: Need to Relate

The INTERPERSONAL DOMAIN comprises the generalized ability to “express ideas and interpret and respond to messages from others.” Encapsulating personalized, learner-centered educators’ need to relate, this domain includes the social, personal, and leadership skills to foster beneficial relationships with students, peers, and the greater community. View all domains.

Explore interpersonal competencies

interpersonal background
Positive Learning Environments
Strong Relationships
College and Career Support for All
Shared Leadership

Positive Learning Environments

Design, strengthen, and participate in positive learning environments (i.e., school and classroom culture) that support individual and collaborative learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Contribute to professional learning environments that embrace a culture of inquiry and innovation, cross- or interdisciplinary-teaching, shared accountability for student learning, student reflection and self-assessment, and constructive peer assessment.
  2. Contribute to student learning environments that are physically and emotionally safe, welcoming, and affirming.
  3. Contribute to learning environments that build students’ ability to engage in self-directed learning and emphasize opportunities for student voice and choice, such as their ability to co-design their own learning paths, self-assess and reflect, and provide constructive peer feedback.
  4. Deliberately build students’ ability to learn from peers, especially those of different backgrounds or academic/career trajectories, through modeling and feedback techniques.
  5. Demonstrate proper conflict management.
  6. Model respectful communication with supervisors, peers, students, parents, and the broader education community in written, electronic, and face-to-face exchanges.
  7. Create and/or fulfill assigned roles on a team or group to contribute to staying focused, participatory, and on track to meeting group goals.

Strong Relationships

Build strong relationships that contribute to individual and collective success.

Explore Indicators
  1. Develop individual relationships with students that support their social and emotional growth, while setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries.
  2. Create collaborative in-school partnerships with peer educators, administrators, content experts, and others within the school building that support communities of practice to enhance individual and group student learning.
  3. Build relationships with families, community members, businesses, and others outside of the school to support communities of practice that enhance individual and group student learning, including:
    1. Open communication channels, online and in person.
    2. Collaborative partnerships in which each member has a clear role, purpose, and value.
  4. Be explicit with students about the value of networks or communities and help them understand how to construct networks and communities pursuing their academic and career goals.

College and Career Support for All

Contribute to college and career access and success for all learners, particularly those historically marginalized and/or least served by public higher education due to differences in background, demographics, learning style, or culture.

Explore Indicators
  1. Work with students to ensure all students have the access and supports to master the skills and credits necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and employment.
  2. Provide age-appropriate and individualized career exploration, planning, and connections to graduation counseling.
  3. With peers, build and contribute to structures and strategies that foster cultural competency, commitment to equity, and are supportive of all learners.

Shared Leadership

Seek appropriate individual or shared leadership roles to continue professional growth, advancement, and increasing responsibility for student learning and advancement.

Explore Indicators
  1. Seek or create opportunities to serve as a teacher-leader, mentor, coach, or content expert within the school, district, or state.
  2. Share successes and struggles with other educators and actively participate in professional renewal opportunities.
  3. Develop and employ a range of influence strategies to more effectively build and sustain support across peers for learner-centered approaches.
  4. Build relationships for the purpose of motivating other team members’ performance.

Intrapersonal: Need to Process

The INTRAPERSONAL DOMAIN contains the generalized “capacity to manage one’s behavior and emotions to achieve one’s goals” or what internal capacity personalized, learner-centered educators need to process. It comprises the habits of mind, expectations for students, and assumptions about the teaching profession that educators should have. View all domains.

Explore intrapersonal competencies

intrapersonal background
Support All Learners
Personalized Orientation
Demonstrate Persistence
Safe, Open, Flexible Orientation
Lifelong Professional Learning
Self-reflection and Improvement

Support All Learners

Convey a dedication to all learners—especially those historically marginalized and/or least served by public higher education—reaching college, career, and civic readiness.

Explore Indicators
  1. Recognize, make transparent, discuss, and adapt as necessary to the cultural biases and inequitable distribution of resources that may challenge learners from attaining postsecondary credentials and career advancement while remaining culturally sensitive and aware of celebrating students’ diversity.
  2. Create structured opportunities in professional development and instruction to reflect on equity, civic participation, and their intersections.
  3. Demonstrate ability to reflect on personal social location and privilege, and awareness of systemic and interpersonal forms of oppression.
  4. Demonstrate awareness of and remedies for unintentional biases, such as lowered expectations of productivity.
  5. Be aware of and adept at referring students to services—both inside and out of school—to reduce barriers to learning.
  6. Use of restorative practices in classes to drive student learning of social responsibilities, foster respected learning communities, and promote inclusion.

Personalized Orientation

Demonstrate an orientation toward and commitment to a personalized, learner-centered vision for teaching and learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Exhibit a willingness to use and continuously improve practices that reshape and expand the role of the educator such as:
    1. Engaging in flexible facilitation of learning.
    2. Fostering student independence (i.e., building student confidence and knowing when to step back).
    3. Providing frequent and timely feedback to students.
    4. Using student products and performance to drive shifts in practice, without lowering achievement standards and expectations in the classroom for all students.
    5. Building relationships with students that foster their learning success.
    6. Practicing and seeking to improve the skills described in the Instructional Competencies domain.

Demonstrate Persistence

Engage in deliberate practices of adapting and modeling persistence and a growth mindset.

Explore Indicators
  1. Demonstrate how competence and confidence are gained through effort, assistance, and time.
  2. Demonstrate ability to strive toward ambitious, long-term educational and professional goals.
  3. Use mistakes, failures, and struggle as opportunities for growth.
  4. When necessary, prioritize progress and delay gratification to sustain effort even amid challenges and setbacks and helps students understand how to do so.

Safe, Open, Flexible Orientation

Facilitate and prioritize shifting to and maintaining a learner-centered culture.

Explore Indicators
  1. Model willingness to share reflections on and transparency around successes, failures, and challenges.
  2. Demonstrate cultural sensitivity, awareness, and responsiveness.
  3. Establish a classroom culture where risk taking is safe.
  4. Establish a classroom culture where help seeking is safe.
  5. Model flexibility to easily shift focus and resources to meet ever changing priorities and respond to problems and multiple demands as challenges rather than obstacles.

Lifelong Professional Learning

Demonstrate an orientation toward and commitment to lifelong professional learning.

Explore Indicators
  1. Seek opportunities to learn new skills, deepen practices, and collaborate with others.
  2. Explicitly use modeling behavior to foster autonomy and lifelong learning skills in students.
  3. Maintain an explicit orientation toward change and improvement though behaviors such as:
    1. Seeking out high-quality research to inform reflective practice.
    2. Seeking out contradictory evidence to inform beliefs.
    3. Welcoming and responding constructively to observation, feedback, and critique.
  4. Take advantage of new tools and resources to enhance teaching, especially technological resources such as online professional communities and “anytime/anywhere” coursework.

Self-reflection and Improvement

Analyze evidence to improve personal practices.

Explore Indicators
  1. Use design thinking or other continuous improvement approaches for short-cycle reflection or evaluation to examine personal practice, identify student needs, set goals, develop improvement plans, track next steps, share learning with peers, and communicate choices to learners, families, other professionals, and the community.
  2. Remain reflective and focused on improvement and innovation.
  3. Involve students in reflecting on teaching practices and the learning environment.
  4. Use research-based best practices, as well as professional judgment, to select and scaffold materials.
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