Introducing the OwnMyLearning Framework

As more and more schools recognize the need to move away from traditional systems and embrace some form of mastery-based learning (personalized, customized, blended), educators require some guidance in how to get their own daily learning environments up to speed.
From my experience, there are several points of failure for educators in making this a reality:

  • defining personalized/customized learning too vaguely for clear actions by classroom teachers
  • sticking to old demotivational structures that contradict what we now know from research on motivation
  • verifying the aspirational changes as sound instructional practices can be time consuming.

This is why I developed the OwnMyLearning Framework (OMLF): to better define practices necessary for change and supporting those practices with motivational and educational research. Simplified version: and full framework

There are two main fronts for any change effort in education to be successful: 1) all educators working collectively on common professional learning plan to support instructional changes and 2) leadership planning teams working to change structures that inhibit the implementation of the instructional changes. Teachers who try to implement change individually will “inevitably“ run into walls—the book Inevitable (Schwahn & McGarvey, 2012) describes them as weight-bearing walls—that prevent lasting impactful. Schools that hope for automatic changes in instructional practices by simply changing systems will also fail (Frontier & Rickabaugh, 2014). Both need to work hand-in-hand.

If educators want to make a real impact in education by developing “inclusive, creative, participative pedagogies and methodologies” (Durant 2020), leaders need to collaborate with teachers and revamp demotivating school structures.

So if a school/district is ready to take these on, where do they start? OMLF addresses both fronts: the yellow and blue sections (teacher planning and learner intended results) focus on professional learning planning on instructional practices, while the red section (building/district structures) provides guidance for planning teams working on systems.

Professional Learning & Growth

Individual teachers can use OMLF to guide their professional learning, but will be more effective if approached collectively with professional colleagues. Teacher planning for instruction is crucial for professional growth, but you also need to take into account the intended learner result. The latter provides the reason for doing the former; what do we expect from learners as a result of our planning? OMLF focuses on both working side-by-side.

Supporting Intrinsic Motivation

Self Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2018) has decades of research to support these three main components to intrinsic motivation:

  • autonomy
  • competence (or mastery)
  • relatedness (or purpose)

Because education has closely embraced the behavioral branches psychology for longer than all current practicing educators can remember, it can be a difficult transition to rethink motivation outside behavioral terms. That makes it even more vitally important that any instructional planning fully embrace current understanding of intrinsic motivation. {See this article to learn more about Self Determination Theory, the branch of psychology that studies intrinsic motivation}.

OLMF incorporates both teacher planning and learner result strands as parallel structures, broken into four main groups that reinforce the known ingredients of intrinsic motivation:

  • Agency & culture lead to relatedness.
  • Choice & pace lead to autonomy.
  • Feedback & evidence lead to competence.
  • Authentic work & challenge lead to mastery (an extension of competence).

Agency & Culture

Teachers who immerse learners (who have been oriented on traditional “spoon-fed”) with a quick transition to personalized/customized learning will find it a struggle. If learners have no background in developing their own agency, they will have difficulty handling flexible environments (often to a point they prefer to go back to traditional). Classroom environments must help groom learners with learner agency skills to be successful in mastery-based based environments. These skills are key to developing relatedness (or in Daniel Pink’s term “purpose”) for learners in the classroom environment.

Choice & Pace

Expecting that all students based on chronological age are ready for any give content delivered in large group setting is unrealistic. Also expecting teachers to manage hundreds of students’ ideal placements in all content is also unrealistic. But there are ways to create manageable environments that flex pace for learners. As multiple modes of delivery of instruction are integrated with each learning topic, choice options can grow over time. Flexing pace and choice will help develop learner autonomy skills.

Feedback & Evidence

Delivering learner agency, choice, and pace options are moot without intricate feedback loops that help learners identify their own weaknesses and next steps. Learners need feedback to make good decisions on how they utilize their time with practice and study. Continual exposure to these feedback structures is necessary for learners to recognize they have the ability to achieve competence even at the moments when their stage of learning is not yet where it should be.

Authentic Work & Challenge

To develop a deeper level of competence, learners can collaborate and learn with authentic applications of their learning content. These types of activities are crucial for developing “real-world” skills beyond classroom environments.

Note the teacher planning tasks typically addresses learner intended results. For example, the teacher planning “Organize pacing guides and pacing monitoring” leads to the learner intended result “Learners work toward mastery at an efficient pace.” Or, “Develop multiple feedback loops throughout instructional process” contributes to “Learners use feedback loops to inform decision-making .” OMLF provides both to help educators monitor if our efforts in teacher planning are contributing to the learner results.

Research Supporting Educational/Instructional Practices

When faced with making change in instruction practices, nervous educators express concerns of “experimenting” on learners. When faced with searching for information on personalized or customized learning, many find a dearth of research information and come to the conclusion there is no research. The important step is to break down the tasks or practices represented by personalized or customized learning. Not only does this help develop a common understanding or vocabulary among coworkers, it also opens a whole world of research data that contribute to these specific instructional practices. OMLF compares many personalized/customized practices with John Hattie’s Visible Learning work which identifies effect sizes of hundreds of educational influences. A particularly useful tool for educators who wants to learn more is the MetaX Visible Learning (Hattie, 2023) web tool for examining the individual influences by definition and the research involved. 

Over the years many educational presenters have offered ordered lists of Visible Learning’s (VL) top influences (in order of effect size) as an educational strategy, but these selected lists by themselves do not lend themselves well to organized professional learning. OMFL’s approach is to look at the interrelated nature of the educational influences and how they can contribute to other influences in the bigger picture of school improvement. Note that some low effect-size influences (orange lettering) are still included to provide context with effective strategies, particularly how they relate to other more powerful influences. As a reminder, MetaX updates the effect sizes on a regular basis as more research becomes available, so visit their website for the latest updated information on effect sizes of individual influences.

There can be endless overlap of VL influences for the OMLF tasks; rather than try to list all tasks to all influences, VL influences were limited to one subcategory task of OMLF (with one exception—bonus points to those who find it :).

Educational Systems & Structures

Another facet of OMLF is Building/district structures (red). This section targets the leadership planning teams that tackle updating the educational systems that classroom teachers cannot change individually. While the tasks are concise, the work is not. Some of the individual tasks may take more than a year and subcommittees of educators to complete. Regardless, this work is necessary for making school systems compatible with current knowledge of intrinsic motivation. Without changes to these structures, even the most well-intentioned teachers will eventually have to forego hopes to achieving mastery-based learning in their classrooms. The level of planning and depth that must be ferreted and sifted to see success in implementing these changes is beyond the scope of this writing. Here we focus on explaining the structure.

The four main groups support the teacher planning and learner intended results sections of the framework:

  • Nurturing agency / culture
  • Nurturing pace / choice
  • Nurturing feedback / evidence
  • Nurturing authentic work

The tasks within the four groups support changes to structures or systems within the school. The scope of change may vary, but nearly all schools have areas to focus on updating. Even “non-traditional” schools likely have areas to improve or change. For example, standards-based schools who transitioned from traditional grading often still have hold-over systems that still inhibit intrinsic motivation. All structures are important, but in my experience the particularly difficult systems are grade level connections to curriculum for elementary, and for secondary the grading, reporting systems (particularly sorting students academically), and course structures.

For districts who see potential in this tool helping their change process, OwnMyLearning has developed professional learning tools (online or facilitated) and professional planning processes (facilitated) to help with this journey forward. For districts with high levels of central office support, using the framework for developing internal tools and processes may be their best option.


Durrant, J. (2020). Teacher agency, Professional Development and School Improvement. Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.

Frontier, T., & Rickabaugh, J. (2014). Five levers to improve learning: How to prioritize for powerful results in your school. ASCD.

Hattie, J. (2019-2023). Visible Learning Global research database. Corwin Visible Learning plus.

Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness. United Kingdom: Guilford Publications.

Schwahn, C. J., & McGarvey, B. (2012). Inevitable: Mass customized learning: Learning in the age of empowerment. Chuck Schwahn & Bea McGarvey.