Customized Structures

Implementing structures that support an uncompromisingly learner focused approach is the hallmark of a Mass Customized Learning approach. Identifying and implementing customizing structures that replace industrial-age practices, procedures, and structures is essential to building the Ideal Learning Experience for all learners.

In their book “Inevitable, Mass Customized Learning: Learning in the Age of Empowerment”, Charles Schwahn and Beatrice McGarvey describe weight bearing walls that sustain our traditional assembly-line school structures and prevent hard working educators from providing the Ideal Learning Experience for every one of their learners.

Chuck & Bea encourage us to study other industries where organizations have proven that mass customization is doable. iTunes, Amazon, Verizon, Google, etc. prove to us daily that mass customization is effective and efficient using customizing technologies. The authors of “Inevitable” use a “weight bearing wall” metaphor to identify the Industrial Age walls (practices) that prevent us from meeting individual learner needs.

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Guiding Principles of Mass Customized Learning

Uncompromisingly Learner-Centered

  1. Focusing on learning versus on control and compliance’
  2. Optimizing learning versus adult convenience;
  3. Preparing learners for life versus for more school;

Intrinsic Motivators

  1. Creating autonomy and engagement versus apathy and alienation;
  2. Building a growth versus fixed mindset culture;
  3. Supporting mastery versus manipulating compliance;

Foundational Principles of Learning

  1. Learners learn in different timeframes and different ways;
  2. Mistakes are inherent in learning;
  3. Success breeds success.
MCL schools across the country are working toward changing the industrial-age structures with customizing structures such as: grade levels (the way we group learners), ABC grading system (the way we provide learners with feedback and measure success), textbook programs, courses/curriculum, etc.

Our MCL schools find it hard to change these industrial-age structures but once they do, they enjoy increased engagement from learners and they feel a sense of success at moving their system closer to a vision of providing an Ideal Learning Experience to every one of their learners, every hour of every day.

These schools are intentional about applying a basic set of guiding principles, similar to our “Guiding Principles of Mass Customized Learning”

Our Collaborative for Customized Learning (CCL) has been helping schools adopt customizing structures by facilitating sessions that have helped us

      • develop a complete set of learning progressions (see more details on our progressions in the Viable Learning Outcomes Component);
      • look at ways to implement technology that allows us to track where learners are in their learning and what they are ready to learn next;
      • investigate different ways to group and regroup learners blurring the messages that grade level grouping sends to young learners;
      • adopt formative feedback systems that replace our traditional ABC grading systems;
      • and look at ways to provide different learning opportunities that are available anytime and anywhere.
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To learn more about customizing structures, we recommend Bea McGarvey’s “Mass Customized Learning: Customizing Structures Series” on, a collection of virtual learning paths that help explain the rationale and a detailed description of a variety of customizing structures.

We also encourage educators to join our collaborative (The Collaborative for Customized Learning) to learn more about how our member schools are adopting customizing structures. Our school and individual educator members are committed to helping each other by sharing, collaborating, and problem solving how to implement this important work.