[…] Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the field of education. In fact, there are so many “terms du jour” thrown around, tweeted and traded these days that their intrinsic value is often questionable, and confusing. Take the terms differentiated, individualized and personalized. What can we make of these three near synonyms? Short answer: Plenty!
Modern classrooms are teeming with students of varying interests, backgrounds, abilities and learning needs. To engage these students, learning must be every bit as diverse as they are. In the ISTE/Intel Education book Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology, which I wrote with my colleague, Peggy Grant, we tease out the crucial nuances that distinguish these terms in an attempt to demystify the approaches they refer to so that educators may better initiate more effective learning techniques.
Within the context of education, differentiation is a type of learning where instruction is tailored to meet the learning needs, preferences and goals of individual students. The overarching academic goals for groups of students are the same, yet the teacher has the latitude to use whatever resources and approaches they see fit to connect with a student or use practices that have proved successful for similar students. […]
Instruction calibrated to meet the unique pace of various students is known as individualized learning. If differentiation is the “how,” then individualization is the “when.” The academic goals, in this case, remain the same for a group of students, but individual students can progress through the curriculum at different speeds, based on their own particular learning needs. This approach serves students who may need to review previously covered material, students who don’t want to waste time covering information they’ve already mastered, or students who need to proceed through the curriculum more slowly or immerse themselves in a certain topic or principle to really get it. […]
Perhaps the most confusing term of them all is personalized learning. Some misuse the term, thinking it refers to a student’s choice of how, what and where they learn according to their preferences. Others confuse it with individualization, taking it as a reference to lessons that are paced at different rates to accommodate different students. […]