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Personalized Learning vs. Individualized Learning

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 -- Sarah Wallach

At first glance, personalized learning and individualized learning can seem almost interchangeable. However, there are a couple of key differences between the two that can affect both how they are used in the classroom and the overall student outcome created by using each method.

Individualized learning is essentially instruction that is tailored to students’ strengths and weaknesses. When students complete an assignment, their performance on the task dictates whether they will move forward to more challenging assignments or be given additional practice to strengthen skills they’ll need to accomplish more long-term goals. Their progress is continuously monitored, and steps are taken by their teacher to help them fill in any gaps that appear along the way.

Personalized learning is an approach that not only allows but also encourages students to learn in a way that suits their unique preferences and abilities for digesting and building upon the information they receive in the classroom. Lessons are taught in a way that takes into account the needs and interests of individual students, and additional help is given when necessary through the same approach.

The key difference between the two is that individualized learning uses student performance as a primary indicator of strengths and weaknesses in a topic or subject matter, while personalized learning looks at strengths and weaknesses as a combination of learning style preferences and performance. Both methods monitor student progress, but their results are only one piece of the puzzle for personalized learning.

Moving from individualized learning to a more personalized learning approach can be time consuming, but there are a few easy ways to take a quick step in that direction to help improve your student outcomes. Here are a few tips:

  1. When planning whole-class instruction, incorporate learning materials for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners into your lesson plans.
  2. At the beginning of the school year, ask students what their favorite subjects and activities in the classroom are, and create a quick cheat sheet that you can have handy when reviewing your students’ progress.
  3. Group students by how they like to learn and encourage them to work collaboratively on a project. The students who are more advanced will help those who are struggling in a way that feels natural to them, which will more than likely align to their partner’s preferred learning style as well.
  4. Provide both classic teaching tools and technology-based tools to give students different ways to interact, experiment, and challenge themselves when learning new concepts.

At Edmentum, our online tools can help you provide a more personalized learning environment for students while saving you time in the classroom. Our solutions provide a variety of resources, so you can quickly find multiple options to support a variety of different student needs. To learn more about how we can help you with your individualized or personalized learning needs, click here to speak to an Edmentum Solution Specialist.