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.

The Utah State Board of Education is continuing the innovation for PCBL with the release of the Utah’s PCBL Framework and continuation of the PCBL Grant Programs. PCBL moves the focus of the classroom from teaching to learning based on fixed and well-defined targets for all students. It provides equitable access for each student to demonstrate core knowledge and skills in personalized and differentiated ways and can also empower students to engage in opportunities for deeper learning. PCBL moves instruction beyond information dissemination to a focus on transferable skills necessary for success in the modern world.

Review Committee

Michael Hakkarinen
Advisory Committee Facilitator
Utah State Board of Education

Bryan Bowles
Former School District Superintendent
Utah Charter School Board

Royd Darrington
Former Local Education Agency (LEA) Administrator
Juab School District

Blaine Edman
Current Local Education Agency (LEA) Administrator
Alpine School District

Christina Guevara
Expert, Blended Learning
Spectrum Academy

Ryan Hagge
Current Charter School Administrator
American Academy of Innovation

Rajathi Noel
Current Teacher
Weber School District

Luke Rasmussen
Current Superintendent
Ogden School District

Logan Toone
Expert, Assessment In Student Learning
Davis School District 

Matthew Winters
Former Teacher
Utah Education Network (UEN)

Sonia Woodbury
Expert, STEM Education
City Academy

Utah’s PCBL Framework and Related Initiatives

Utah's Personalized, Com­petency-Based Learning (PCBL) Framework is the bridge between Utah's Portrait of a Graduate to the work of Utah’s educators, students, and families to achieve the learning outcomes as described in Utah’s Core Standards and the P-20 Competencies

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

  1. Culture of Learning
  2. Learner Agency
  3. Demonstrated Competency and Assessment
  4. Customized Supports
  5. Social and Emotional Learning

When these elements are 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, students, and families needed to cultivate student learning aligned with Utah’s Portrait of a Graduate.

Related Initiatives

Grant Programs

Planning Grant Program

Implementation Grant Program

Expansion Grant Program (coming soon)

Archived Grants

Extended Learning Resources

Conceptual Resources

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

Contact Us

Nathan Auck
STEM Coordinator
PCBL Specialist
Phone: 801-538-7664 | E-mail

Alicia Mormann
Executive Secretary
Phone: (801) 538-7766 | E-mail