In the recent years, personalized learning and differentiated instruction have been hot buzzwords in the education world, especially with the increasing use of technology in classrooms. The idea of school catering more and more towards each student’s needs is something that almost all agree is beneficial. However, though these words have become popular, there still seems to be a lack of clarity on what these termsmean, the difference between personalization and differentiation, and how to implement them in your classroom.
In this blog post we break down for you the meaning of these terms and the difference between personalized learning and differentiated instruction. We then link you to two other blog posts that each include 5 ways to personalize or differentiate your instruction with the help of Edulastic.
In the words of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), “Differentiation is a type of learning where instruction is tailored to meet the learning needs, preferences and goals of individual students.” In other words, in the differentiated instruction model, the teacher adapts instruction to meet the needs of different groups of students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them.”
Differentiated instruction involves the teacher adapting various elements in their classroom according to the needs of his or her students. This can play out in a variety of ways, and this article explains some of the ways to create an environment of differentiated instruction in your classroom with Edulastic.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary.” From this definition, we can see that there is some overlap between differentiation and personalization as they both involve catering instruction to different learning needs. However, thought leaders on the subject, Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClasky, emphasize the key difference being personalization starting with the learner and letting them “actively participate in the design of their learning”.
The focus of personalized learning is letting the learners choose how they learn in a way that is most beneficial for them. They work alongside the teacher to create their own goals and pave their own educational pathway. As ISTE puts it, “Instead of education being something that happens to the learner, it is something that occurs as a result of what the student is doing, with the intent of creating engaged students who have truly learned how to learn.” Like differentiated instruction, personalized learning has many possibilities, and this article shows you a few of the ways you can implement personalized learning in your classroom with Edulastic.
To Sum it Up…
The main difference between personalized learning and differentiated instruction is personalization’s focus on the student’s agency in designing their own learning path depending on their interests and style, while differentiation’s focus is the teacher adapting their lessons to different types of learning, and accounting for the various students in the room. We are not advocating for one of these styles over the other, as both are shown to be very effective and beneficial. We know that the best teaching strategy is different for everyone and depends on each school, teacher, and group of students. In addition, many people choose to use a combination of the two ideas in their instruction.
In our research, one overwhelmingly common factor in implementing both of these teaching models was the effective use of technology to personalize and differentiate learning of different students. Because of this, we decided to break down for you how to use our #edtechtool, Edulastic, to make your classroom more effective for each student. In these articles, we also share examples and quotes of the ways other teachers are using personalized learning and differentiated instruction in their classrooms with Edulastic:
ISTE – “Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning”
Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey – Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization