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.