Indi-Personal-Differ “ations” – What works for the 21st Century Learner

When sitting through PD sessions or reading online educational articles, three words appear to come up over and over again. These are Individual, Personalized and Differentiated Learning. Sometimes it can feel that these different methods come in and out of fashion like boy bands and teased hair. However, I have decided to take a closer look at these three methods and think specifically which method I currently employ in my classroom teaching and which method would provide a more beneficial outcome for my students working in the 21st century.

The first step was to become more familiar with the terms. Speaking with my small group at my Cohort 21 session, I became more confused than I was previously trying to identify the specifics of each method. What appeared to be so clear before, became clouded with teaching pedagogical wording. With some guidance from the BC Education website and Personalized vs Individualized vs Differentiation organizational chart I was shown on the Rethinking Learning website. I feel that I have a better grasp of what I am working with now.

To summarize here is what I have determined to be my working definitions for the course of this blog:

Individualization: The student is at the main focus of this method, accommodating the learning needs of the individual but with everyone achieving the same specific objectives. They may work through material at different paces but moving on requires the student to show mastery or understanding. Learners are dependent on the teacher to support their learning by creating individual lessons and learning is assessed in the end with a grade-based test or assignment that confirms what the students knows and doesn’t know.

Differentiation: This method focuses on a group of learners organized based on their needs or interests. Instruction is adapted for each group and is directed by the teacher. Learning objectives are the same for all students, but how they may present their understanding could be different depending on the groups.

Personalized: The focus is on the learner with instruction connected to their interests as well as pace of learning. Each student may have different objectives based on their needs. This could mean displaying an understanding of fractions using a way they feel most comfortable with. Learning is done through a network of peers, teachers and others that the student has decided to make apart of their personal learning team. Students are encouraged to set goal, monitor progress and reflect on learning.

Right now personalized learning is the hot ticket item for 21st century learners by having students able to set their own goals, identify their own learning needs but also see that the teacher is not the only resource to them. These skills are deemed very valuable and necessary for the creative, group oriented and intrinsically motivated professional careers our students will be filling in the future.

As a math teacher, I will be looking to first identify where I am in the spectrum of teaching methods, but then ask other teachers reflect on there they are. By sharing and comparing I hope to gain a better understanding of what I feel these terms mean in practice, but also obtain great resources as to help move towards my goal; a more personalized learning classroom with that uses of 21st century technology and resources.

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2 Responses to Indi-Personal-Differ “ations” – What works for the 21st Century Learner

  1. Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for taking this on. It’s a great, forward-thinking action plan to adopt. In terms of your first step of assessing where you are in the spectrum, and asking others to reflect on where they are, I would offer some of this prompts:

    1) Your Blog = Learning Tool:
    These are great definitions…where did you get them? If you post your sources, your blog can become a more effective learning tool for others.

    2) Journey, not a Destination:
    These are less spectra (plural of spectrum) than approaches. Spectra imply that you are looking to achieve an end to your classroom teaching on a continuum, whereas these are more different approaches that can be incorporated at different times by you depending on your needs, and those of your students.

    3) Assess Yourself:
    How will you assess yourself? Qualitatively, you can get someone to reflect on your practices with you. What does your classroom look like? How do you ask your students to work? This is where you can say, on a scale of 1-10, how much do I/can I personalize my classroom?

    4) Feedback loop:
    As you move towards your goal, keep me in mind – I do a lot of work around personalization. Also, make sure that your admin’ read this blog and is aware of your action plan – they will be able to help you and support you, as well as give you insight into where the school is moving along these lines of different approaches in the classroom.

    5) Watch This: on Personalized vs. Individualiztion Math lessons

    And this….

    And consider how you can leverage experts around you to establish what your school thinks of personalized learning, and how to measure it/assess where you are…

    This is a great topic and you’re off to a great start. Again, I’ll keep my eye out for you on resources and examples, but be sure to post your research and article to empower your readers too!

    • Hi Garth,
      Thanks for the post. As for the resources I had links to them in the text. I will have to see if they came through. The BC government is focusing in one area of personalized learning which is interesting to go through. There is an online interactive book that I linked to which gave me quite a few of the ideas and definitions.

      I will be watching the videos and seeing the connections to the math program.

      Thanks very much!


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