Personalized, Competency Based Learning (PCBL)


What is Personalized, Competency-Based Learning (PCBL)?

In a personalized, competency-based learning system, the following principles influence the daily actions of the educational community:

  • Students are empowered daily to make important decisions about their learning experiences, how they will create and apply knowledge, and how they will demonstrate their learning.
  • Assessment is a meaningful, positive, and empowering learning experience for students that yields timely, relevant, and actionable evidence.
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  • Students progress based on evidence of mastery, not seat time.
  • Students learn actively using different path­ways and varied pacing.
  • Strategies to ensure equity for all students are embedded in the culture, structure, and pedagogy of schools and education sys­tems.
  • Rigorous, common expectations for learn­ing (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) are explicit, transparent, measurable, and transferable.

Utah’s Personalized, Com­petency-Based Learning (PCBL) Framework

The Utah's Personalized, Com­petency-Based Learning (PCBL) Framework seeks to create a bridge from the Utah State Board of Education’s Board Stra­tegic Plan and the Utah Portrait of a Graduate Competencies to the work of educators and students in Utah’s classrooms as they work to achieve the learning outcomes as described in Utah’s Core Standards and the P-20 Competencies.

To achieve this, the PCBL framework leverages six essential components necessary to create a personalized, competency based learning approach.  The six essential components are:

  1. Purpose and Vision
  2. Student Agency
  3. Demonstrated Competency and Assessment
  4. Customized Supports
  5. Equity and
  6. Social Emotional Learning

When these elements or used in concert with one another they set the learning conditions to support schools and districts in achieving the ideals of PCBL.

Furthermore, the PCBL Framework provides clear indicators and promising practices for educators and students needed to create learning conditions that cultivate student learning by being trans­parent about learning expectations which in turn allows students to know their learning targets and what they need to do demonstrate mastery. 

Extended Learning Resources for Personalized, Competency Based Learning

Conceptual Resources

Personalized Learning Teacher Toolkit
Google Docs

Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education
Aurora Institute

The Core Four of Personalized Learning: The Elements You Need to Succeed
Education Elements

What Is Competency-Based Education? An Updated Definition
Aurora Institute

Customized Supports

Meeting Students Where They Are
Aurora Institute

Solving the Iceberg Problem Addressing Learning Loss in Middle School Math through Tailored Acceleration
New Classrooms

Utah’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (UMTSS)
Utah State Board of Education

Demonstrated Competency and Assessment

Building Coherent Grading and Reporting Systems in Competency-Based Education, Part 1
Building Coherent Grading and Reporting Systems in Competency-Based Education, Part 2
Building Coherent High School Grading and Reporting Systems in Competency-Based Education, Part 3
Aurora Institute

What is a Grade? Part 1
What is a Grade? Part 2
What is a Grade? Part 3
What is a Grade? Part 4 
Windsor Locks Public Schools (WLPS)

The Iceberg Problem: How Assessment and Accountability Policies Cause Learning Gaps in Math to Persist Below the Surface...and What To Do About it (2019)
New Classrooms


Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed
Aurora Institute

Levers and Logic Models: A Framework to Guide Research and Design of High-Quality Competency-Based Education Systems
Aurora Institute

Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education
Aurora Institute

Will We Make the Future of Learning Equitable?

Purpose and Vision

Let's Teach for Mastery: Not Test Scores | Sal Khan

Readiness for College, Career and Life: The Purpose of K-12 Public Education Today
Aurora Institute

The Journey Toward Mastery Learning: The Steps and Stages to Mastery Credits and the Mastery Transcript
Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC)

Visioning Toolkit: Laying the Groundwork for a Community-Wide Vision for Personalized Learning

Social/Emotional Learning

Choosing and Using Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Competency Assessments: What Schools and Districts Need to Know
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (ACSEL)

Four Strategies for the Successful Integration of Social-Emotional Learning and Personalized Learning

Student Agency

Cultivating Learner Agency Through Authentic Voice and Choice

Maximizing Student Agency Implementing and Measuring Student-Centered Learning Practices
American Institutes for Research (AIR)

Part 1: What Do You Mean When You Say “Student Agency”?
Education Reimagined

Pathways, Pacing, and Agency Are Intertwined
Aurora Institute