Individualized Learning

What is individualized learning?

Individualized learning, or individualized instruction, is a method of teaching in which content, instructional technology, and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interest of each learner.

5 Steps to Individualiztion

Closely related to personalized learning, goals based on curriculum design and standards may be the same for all students, but the individual learning profile and plan for each student may vary. This is because each learner progresses through the material at different speeds, according to his or her own learning needs and abilities. For example, a student might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information already known, or repeat topics on which they need more help

Adaptive learning technology is an important way to individualize learning.

Learn about U.S. Department of Education and its endorsement of individualized, technology-driven education .

The individualized learning plan (ILP)

While students with special needs have long had individualized education programs (IEP) to guide them from kindergarten through Grade 12 education—ensuring that they are receiving the instruction and resources they need to be successful—individualized learning is beginning to take hold in all areas of public education in the form of the individualized learning plan (ILP).

The ILP is a document that includes information about a student’s career goals and education plans post-high school. As college-and career-readiness of students becomes a greater priority as states implement the Common Core State Standards, ILPs are becoming an increasingly important tool for student success.

Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Common Core State Standards .

Developing an ILP

ILPs are both a document and a process developed by students in conjunction with teachers, school counselors and their parents. Information included in an ILP ranges from the student’s skills and hobbies, to current and past activities, to grades and test scores. All of this is compiled to guide the student’s decision making during middle and high school so s/he can achieve his or her goals. Because they are unique and used for different kinds of learning at different ages and life stages, ILPS take many different forms.

If you’re looking for a place to start, the Office of Public Instruction of the State of Washington has free-to-use learning plan templates .

States mandating ILPs

Louisiana, South Carolina, Washington and New Mexico all use some form of the individualized learning plan that is introduced during middle school or the beginning of high school and revisited as students’ progress through their education. In Kentucky, a form of ILPs called the individual graduation plan (IGR) has been a requirement since 2002, and the state has seen a dramatic increase in completion rates since switching to a web-based platform in 2006.

Benefits of ILPs

Research indicates that students benefit most from having individualized learning plans when introduced in middle school and frequently revisited until high school graduation. The ILP will likely be refined as the student changes his or her goals, and should be constantly updated so the student is aware of the paths he or she will need to take to achieve those goals. In general, students with individualized learning plans have displayed more motivation to attend school and better academic achievement.

Read a recent report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy (that also includes many additional research and resources) about the efficacy of individualized learning plans .

Technology-assisted individualized learning solutions in the classroom

In today’s environment of growing class sizes—with an average of 25 students in elementary classrooms and 150 students a day in high school classes—it’s difficult for teachers to provide one-to-one instruction. In addition, teachers are required to ensure that every student is being taught at his or her appropriate instructional level, and that all of the instruction meets grade level state standards. One of the main challenges in education today is providing every student with individualized instruction, including remediation on grade-level work or enrichment, which is necessary.

How technology helps individualize learning

Both students and teachers are finding that online technology helps individualize the learning process and makes better use of learning time. Although the teacher can by no means be replaced in the classroom, hardware devices and adaptive learning technologies are a great ‘assistant’ to improve students’ educational experiences. Sometimes, the method of learning needs to be ‘ flipped’, with teachers using class time for review and practice while learning is done independently.

Adaptive learning technology and how it individualizes learning

Providing truly differentiated and individualized instruction has been a goal of educators for decades, but new technologies available today are empowering schools to implement this form of education in a way never before possible. Adaptive learning, and intelligent adaptive learning technology in particular which tailors learning to the individual student provides many benefits for students and educators:

  • Seamlessly integrates instruction with assessment.
  • Adapts within and between lessons in real-time.
  • Deeply personalized, engaging individualized learning experience for every type of student — the right next lesson at the right level of difficulty at the right time.
  • Supports and empowers teachers with current student progress data to set and meet goals and state standards.
  • Complements all learning models.

Read about adaptive learning and intelligent adaptive learning .

Current reporting helps individualize learning in alignment with standards

Schools across the U.S. and Canada faced with growing class size and fewer resources have come to rely on an individualized learning model supported by technology.  For example, elementary math students are proven to move further and faster with adaptive online instruction, in alignment with new state and Canadian standards.

Read a recent white paper that explains how individualized learning can help students excel in math .