Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization Report (v2)

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Report (v2) explaining the chart on Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization. Download the report at

Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey have been researching personalizing learning and developed a chart comparing the terms. After the chart went viral, we have been asked to put together an explanation and research on the differences of these terms.

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Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization Report (v2)

  1. 1. Mid-Pacific Institute 1:1 iPad Program Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization Report (v2) by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey Co-Founders of Personalize Learning, LLC “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert EinsteinPersonalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 1is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  2. 2. Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization Report (V2)by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, Co-Founders of Personalize Learning, LLCThere is a difference between personalization, differentiation and individualization. Thefirst is learner-centered; the others are teacher-centered. There seems to be confusionin the education world about the differences and comparisons of these three terms asthey relate to the learner.The U.S. Department of Education defined the terms: personalization, differentiation,and individualization in the 2010 Education Technology Plan: Individualization refers to instruction that is paced to the learning needs of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but students can progress through the material at different speeds according to their learning needs. For example, students might take longer to progress through a given topic skip topics that cover information they already know, or repeat topics they need more help on. Differentiation refers to instruction that is tailored to the learning preferences of different learners. 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. 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 (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization). definitions the Ed Tech plan focuses on instruction -- not learning. Thesedefinitions motivated us to create a chart that compares these terms. We createdthe original chart in January 2012 to provide a resource as a reference to the threeterms and how the terms “Personalization,” “Personalized Learning” or“Personalizing Learning” focus on the learner not instruction. We determined thatusing the term “learners” was a more accurate term than “students” in all learningenvironments. We see learning happening anywhere at anytime with anyone so thelearner will end up driving and owning their learning. We updated this chart(version 2) March 2013 from feedback and input from educators from around theworld.Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 2is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  3. 3. Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Chart (v2) The main difference between personalization, differentiation, and individualization is that one is learner-centered and the others are teacher-centered. Personalization Differentiation IndividualizationThe Learner… The Teacher… The Teacher…drives their learning. provides instruction to provides instruction to an groups of learners. individual learner.connects learning with interests, adjusts learning needs for accommodates learning needstalents, passions, and aspirations. groups of learners. for the individual learner.actively participates in the design designs instruction based on customizes instruction basedof their learning. the learning needs of on the learning needs of the different groups of learners. individual learner.owns and is responsible for their is responsible for a variety of is responsible for modifyinglearning that includes their voice instruction for different instruction based on the needsand choice on how and what they groups of learners. of the individual learner.learn.identifies goals for their learning identifies the same identifies the same objectivesplan and benchmarks as they objectives for different for all learners with specificprogress along their learning path groups of learners. objectives for individuals whowith guidance from teacher. receive one-on-one support.develops the skills to select and selects technology and selects technology anduse the appropriate technology resources to support the resources to support theand resources to support and learning needs of different learning needs of theenhance their learning. groups of learners. individual learner.builds a network of peers, supports groups of learners understands the individualexperts, and teachers to guide who are reliant on them to learner is dependent on themand support their learning. support their learning. to support their learning.demonstrates mastery of content monitors learning based on monitors learning based onin a competency-based system. Carnegie unit (seat time) Carnegie unit (seat time) and and grade level. grade level.becomes a self-directed, expert uses data and assessments uses data and assessments tolearner who monitors progress to modify teaching and report the progress of what theand reflects on learning based on provides feedback for groups individual learner learned tomastery of content and skills. and individual learners to decide next steps in their advance learning. learning.Assessment OF Learning measures learner performance. Assessment FOR Learning providesfeedback throughout the process. Assessment AS Learning encompasses Assessment FORLearning where the learner monitors their progress and reflects on their own learning. Personalized Learning Chart v2 (2013) by Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. For permission to distribute copies or to use in a publication, please contact Personalize Learning, LLC at or use the contact form at www.personalizelearning.comPersonalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 3is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  4. 4. Chart ExplainedThis chart spurred discussions from educators around the world about the term,personalized learning. Not only were there thousands of daily hits and multiple requestsfor the chart, we were asked many questions to clarify different elements of the chart.We used some of these questions to expand on the chart for schools and organizationsto have background information and resources to support their discussions. Thequestions we focus on for clarification purposes include: ● What does teaching and learning look like as it relates to these terms? ● How do we determine the learner’s needs? ● How does the learner participate in their learning? ● How are the goals and objectives determined for the learner? ● How do learners support their learning and each other? ● How do you know if learning is meaningful? ● How do you assess learning?What does teaching and learning look like as it relates to these terms?In an individualized learning environment, the learner’s needs are identifiedthrough evaluations based on their challenges or disabilities. The teacher reviewsthe findings and recommendations from the evaluations with other professionals toadapt materials and instruction for an individual learner with cognitive or physicalchallenges. “If you remove the veil of disability, you can see the learner.” Kathleen McClaskeyIn a differentiated learning environment, learners are identified based upon theirchallenges in a specific content area and skill levels. The teacher uses existingdifferentiated curriculum or adapts instruction to meet the needs of different groups oflearners.In a personalized learning environment, learning starts with the learner. The learnerunderstands how they learn best so they can become an active participant in designingtheir learning goals along with the teacher.Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 4is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  5. 5. How do we determine the learner’s needs?We can determine each learner’s needs by using an adapted version of the UDL(Universal Design for Learning) Class Learning Profile as a Class Learning SnapshotTManticipating how learners in your class learn best. Each learner creates a PersonalLearner ProfileTM so they can understand their strengths, challenges, aptitudes,interests, talents, and, aspirations. CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) statesthat common sense tells us that each learner is unique.Using the Class Learning SnapshotTM, teachers discover how learners learn best and howthey prefer and need to: ● access information and content ● engage with content ● express what they know and understand“©  CAST  2011.  Used  with  permission.  All  rights  reserved.”    Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 5is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  6. 6. An individualized learning environment may involve learners with special needs wherethey may have an individual education plan (IEP). These learners have been evaluatedto determine their strengths and challenges in areas such as: reading, math, writing andother cognitive challenges. From these evaluations, a set of measurable goals isdetermined along with accommodations for the individual learner in an IEP. Anagreement by the IEP Team is needed to implement them. Implementation can includeout of classroom one-to-one instruction and/or tutoring plus classroom accommodationsby the teacher with frequent support by an instructional aide or para-professional. Otherexamples may include when a teacher or another professional determines a learnerneeds individual support such as RTI, gifted program, Title I, or one-to-one tutoring.Differentiation is responsive teaching rather than “one size fits all” teaching whereteachers proactively plan varied approaches to what different groups of learners need tolearn, how they will learn it, and/or how they will show what they have learned.According to Carol Tomlinson from Differentiation Central (,differentiating instruction increases the likelihood that each learner will learn as much ashe or she can, as efficiently as possible. “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Winston ChurchillIn a personalized learning environment, the Class Learning SnapshotTM guides theteacher in understanding how the learners in their classroom learn best. The PersonalLearner ProfileTM provides each learner their own understanding of how they learn best.With this information, the teacher and learner become partners in learning. The learnerhas a voice in how they like to acquire information, and a choice in how they expresswhat they know and what ways they like to engage with the content. When learnershave ownership and take responsibility for their learning, they are more motivated tolearn and engaged in the learning process. “Find your passion and purpose. Go with your strengths.” Barbara Bray Acknowledging other learning environments, CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) made the change from using the word “student” to “learner” in the UDL Guidelines 2.0, because the term “student” is too narrow. Student implies someone who is in the classroom. CAST realized that learning happens in many different learning environments where the term student might not be traditionally applied (e.g. museums, after-school programs, adult learning, etc.) The word learner was therefore chosen because of the ranges of situations to which it could apply. v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 6is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  7. 7. How does a learner participate in their learning?In an individualized learning environment, learning is passive. Teachers or para-professionals deliver instruction to individual learners. The learner has no voice in thedesign of their instruction or choice in what they learn in this environment. Theinstruction is based on each learner’s needs.In a differentiated classroom, learners can be passive participants in their learning.Teachers use direct instruction that they differentiated based upon the learning needs ofdifferent groups of learners in their classroom. Some teachers may set up learningstations or flip the classroom with multiple ways of showing the same content todifferent types of learners. This confuses educators into thinking that if they flip theclassroom, some teachers consider that learners are personalizing their learning. But,actually, learners are still passively receiving content and directions on what to learn.When learners have choices to interact with the content, discuss what they watched,read, or learned the night before, they are actively participating as learners. However,this is still not personalizing learning. The teacher still chose the topics and how learnersdemonstrate understanding. “School is torture because I am required to spend all my time doing menial tasks, worksheets, and rote memorization. This takes too much time away from being able to discover my hobbies, interests, or passions. I don’t foresee having the ability to do that before I graduate high school.” Adam Ritter, 10th grade student (Facebook)When a learner personalizes their learning, learners actively participate and drive theirlearning. They have a voice in what they are learning based on how they learn best.Learners have a choice in how they demonstrate evidence of their learning. Learnersown and co-design their learning. The teacher is their guide on their personal journey.Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 7is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  8. 8. How are goals and objectives determined for the learner?When you individualize learning, learners may have the same objectives as all thelearners in the class. However, there can be specific objectives for learners who mayneed one-on-one support. Teachers or para-professionals then support and provideaccommodations for individual learners to meet these specific objectives.To differentiate learning, a teacher identifies the same objectives for different groups oflearners. Teachers use and analyze data to identify the different learners in theirclassroom. From this data, they can use, adapt, or create different lessons or resourceson a concept around the same objectives based on the different group of learners.To personalize learning, teachers and learners identify the learner’s goals based on howthey learn best. The learner designs their learning plan or develops benchmarks as theygo along their learning path. One teacher calls them “Personal Journeys” or PJs. In thesecases, the learner drives and owns their learning. The learner follows their learning path,monitors their progress in meeting the benchmarks, and reflects on their progress. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin TofflerPersonalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 8is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  9. 9. How do learners support their learning and each other?In an individualized learning environment, tools and resources are selected by theteacher and are sometimes recommended by an evaluator, special educationprofessional or consultant. The tools could include specialized software and/or hardwarethat support the specific IEP goals agreed to by the IEP Team. In the best cases,teachers or para-professionals learn how to use theses specialized tools so that they caninstruct students in the use of these tools to support their learning. If these tools areused consistently, the learner then adopts them as part of their toolkit. If the teacherworks with individual learners in a Title I program, a RTI program or a one-to-onetutoring situation, they probably chose the tools based on the programs they are usingfor the task at hand.In a differentiated learning environment, the teacher selects the tools and resources forthe groups of learners based upon the activities or products that are included in thelesson. The teacher also considers how appropriate a tool or resource is for the differentgroups of learners. The learner may be able to choose content or a resource based upontheir reading or skill level. “Digital literacy is the ability to choose and use the technology for the task.” Kathleen McClaskeyIn a personalized learning environment, learners access appropriate tools to supporttheir learning. They have critical thinking skills so they can self select the tools theyneed to support any learning task, whether at school or home. Digital literacy is anessential skill in a personalized learning environment. As 21st century learners, theycollaborate, share, and learn with their peers, experts, and other learners around theworld. Being a connected learner is an essential skill in a personalized learningenvironment. Each learner builds their network and connections based on the topic,resource, and skill. Everyone can be an expert learner. “When the learner owns and drives their learning, they have the skills to choose the appropriate resources, tools, and strategies to meet their learning goals.” Barbara BrayPersonalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 9is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  10. 10. How do you know if learning is meaningful?In individualized and differentiated learning environments, learners are awarded creditfor classes on the basis of the Carnegie unit that plays a powerful role in managingtransactions within the education system. First, it provides a unit of exchange to allowdifferent schools and institutions to relate to each other, especially the transition fromhigh school to college. Second, the Carnegie unit is based upon the amount of time thata teacher is in front of a classroom and the time learners are in school. It doesn’t takeinto account how effective the teacher is, how much time and effort the teachercontributes outside the classroom, or how much time and effort learners contribute.Competency-based pathways are based on mastery not on seat time that expectsteachers to help all learners succeed in mastering skills.iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) developed a website on“Competency-Based Pathways” that describes five design principles. Design Principle 1: Students (Learners) Advance upon Mastery Design Principle 2: Explicit and Measurable Learning Objectives Empower Students (Learners) Design Principle 3: Assessment Is Meaningful and a Positive Learning Experience for Students (Learners) Design Principle 4: Students (Learners) Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support Design Principle 5: Learning Outcomes Emphasize Include Application and Creation of KnowledgeYou probably noticed that w inserted the word “Learners” in parenthesis wherever theword “Students” is listed.Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 10is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  11. 11. How do you assess learning?In an individualized learning environment, data and British Columbia created anusually summative assessments are used to determine interactive discussion guidethe progress an individual learner has made. Thisinformation determines where a learner may be placed on Personalized Learning. Onand what strategies need to be deployed to improve page 18 of the PDF guide,his/her progress. Assessment OF and FOR learning may they state that “studentbe used to determine learner performance and progress. assessment is the process of gathering evidence of what aIn a differentiated learning environment, data and student knows, understandsassessments are used to provide progress or performance and is able to do andinformation to the teacher so that instructional methodsand materials can be modified for groups of learners and determines how well they areindividual learners as needed. It also determines where a achieving the learninglearner may be placed in the different groups of learners. outcomes.”Assessment OF and FOR Learning are applicable whendifferentiating instruction. In a personalized learning environment, the learner has the skills to self-assess their learning, to monitor their progress and to reflect on their learning using a variety of instruments and strategies. The learner often designs their own assessments with guidance from their teacher. The learner becomes motivated as they master their learning and gain skills to advance their own learning using assessment AS and FOR learning. The report Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind shows the focus has been on assessment of learning where teachers measure student learning after the fact (Diagram 1). To ensure learners are acquiring essential skills such as self-regulation, a shift towards assessment as learning is required wherelearners evaluate and adapt their own learning (Diagram 2).Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 11is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  12. 12. Assessment OF Learning refers to strategies designed to confirm what learners know,demonstrate whether or not they have met curriculum outcomes or the goals of theirindividualized programs, or to certify proficiency and make decisions about learners’future programs or placements. Effective Assessment OF Learning requires thatteachers provide:● a rationale for undertaking a particular assessment of learning at a particular point in time.● clear descriptions of the intended learning.● processes make it possible for learners to demonstrate their competence and skill.● a range of alternative mechanisms for assessing the same outcomes.● public and defensible reference points for making judgments.● transparent approaches to interpretation.● descriptions of the assessment process.● strategies for recourse in the event of disagreement about the decisions.Assessment FOR Learning occurs throughout the learning process. It is interactive,with teachers:● aligning instruction with the targeted outcomes.● identifying particular learning needs of learners or groups.● selecting and adapting materials and resources.● creating differentiated teaching strategies and learning opportunities for helping individual learners move forward in their learning.● providing immediate feedback and direction to learners.Assessment FOR Learning provides information about what learners already knowand can do, so that teachers can design the most appropriate next steps in instruction.Assessment AS Learning is based in research about how learning happens, and ischaracterized by learners reflecting on their own learning and making adjustments sothat they achieve deeper understanding. The teacher’s role in promoting thedevelopment of independent, expert learners through Assessment AS Learning is to:● model and teach the skills of self-assessment.● guide learners in setting goals, and monitoring their progress toward them.● provide exemplars and models of good practice and quality work that reflect curriculum outcomes.● work with learners to develop clear criteria of good practice.● guide learners in developing internal feedback or self-monitoring mechanisms to validate and question their own thinking, and to become comfortable with the ambiguity and uncertainty that is inevitable in learning anything new.● provide regular and challenging opportunities to practise, so that learners can become confident, competent self-assessors.● monitor learners’ meta-cognitive processes as well as their learning, and provide descriptive feedback.● create an environment where it is safe for learners to take chances and where support is readily available.Personalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 12is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  13. 13. Reporting in Assessment AS Learning is the responsibility of learners, who must learnto articulate and defend the nature and quality of their learning. When learners reflecton their own learning and must communicate it to others, they are intensifying theirunderstanding about a topic, their own learning strengths, and the areas in which theyneed to develop further.We included Assessment OF, FOR, and AS Learning for a reason. Assessment hasalways been assumed to be the teacher’s responsibility. • Assessment OF Learning is when the teacher is analyzing data and summative assessments about a learner. The teacher is in control of the learning and the direction of instruction. The learner may not have an understanding of their learning. • Assessment FOR Learning is when the teacher includes the learner in analyzing data and formative assessments, the teacher and learner are working together to support learning. • Assessment AS Learning personalizes learning because the learner is monitoring and reflecting on their learning. This means the learner takes responsibility for their learning.Assessment AS Learning is a fundamental shift in thinking around teaching, learning,and assessment. “I am still learning.” MichelangeloReferences ● Image on cover from Mid-Pacific Institute’s One-on-One Program ● 2010 U.S. Education Technology Plan: 2010/individualized-personalized-differentiated-instruction ● “Competency-Based Pathways” Google site developed by iNACOL staff. ● Personalized Learning in British Columbia: Interactive Discussion Guide. British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2011) ● Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind: Assessment for Learning, Assessment as Learning, Assessment of Learning. The Crown in Right of Manitoba as represented by the Minister of Education, Citizenship and Youth. Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. Winnipeg, Manitoba (2006). ● Rose, David & Meyer, Anne. Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age. CAST. (ASCD, 2002) ● Tomlinson, Carol. Differentiation Central: ● What is UDL? v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 13is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  14. 14. The Personalized Learning Chart (v2) and all derivatives of the chart along with adaptations of the explanations in this report by Barbara Bray andKathleen McClaskey are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.Class Learning SnapshotTM and The Personal Learner ProfileTM are trademarks ofPersonalize Learning, LLC.If you have any questions, comments, want to make copies or changes to the chart,include the chart in a publication, want us to write about how you are using the chart, orwould like us to help you personalize learning, contact us personalizelearn@gmail.comand visit our website for more information and resources: www.personalizelearning.comPersonalization v Differentiation v Individualization Report v2 (2013) by Bray, B & McClaskey, K. 14is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.