A teacher looking over a new class for the first time faces some 20 or 30 individuals with different needs, interests, and abilities. There are students who need a great deal of guidance and students who need very little guidance. Students who love to read and those who would rather make something. Students who are full of ideas and students who can carry out the ideas of others.
This module is designed to give you skill in individualizing instruction to meet the individual needs of students. It will help you become aware of the differences among students and how you can tailor your instruction to reflect these differences.
For many years, teachers have been well aware of differences among individual students. They have noticed differences in physical and mental abilities, special talents, and personal interests. In spite of this, teachers may still be seen standing in front of a class of students, telling all of them the same thing, at the same time, in the same way.
There is also a great range in the extent to which instruction is individualized in various educational programs. At one end of the range is the completely individualized program of study. In such a program, the focus is on exposing students to a variety of learning experiences throughout the school year. The students work closely with the instructor to define their personal academic goals. After identifying these needs, students pursue a selected series of learning experiences which are created specifically to meet those requirements. Students are advanced to the next level when they have met the necessary competencies. Some private schools incorporate this procedure.
Another, more common type of approach is to individualize instruction within a conventional academic program structure. Individualization in such a program may take the form of encouraging each student to choose somewhat different assignments, providing a variety of lab experiences, using varied learning resources, or allowing for individual rates of learning and amounts of production. This kind of individualization may be undertaken even within the framework of a program based primarily on group instruction and units of time.
Characteristics of Individualized Instruction
Individualized instruction is based on the ideas of flexibility and uniqueness. There are, however, some concepts and characteristics that generally apply to all forms of individualized instruction, even though there may be considerable differences in emphasis from one program or subject to another:
- The needs, abilities, and interests of individual students become one of the prime focal points around which the instructional program centers.
- Students are encouraged to become more active, involved, and responsible for their own instruction.
- The teacher becomes less a presenter of lectures and demonstrations, and more a learning manager and guide.
- The learning objectives are clearly stated in performance terms.
- Varied alternative and optional learning experiences are available to meet the stated objectives.
- The strategies or methods of instruction are designed to reach students as individuals.
- A variety of media and instructional resources is employed.
- The learning environment is designed for flexibility and variety.
- Students are evaluated in terms of individual performance and not by comparison with others.
Students’ responsibilities in an individualized program often include the following:
- Helping to define their own goals.
- Helping to decide how best to reach those goals.
- Selecting activities in keeping with their specific need, abilities, interests, and learning styles.
- Helping to find their own sources of information, and adapting and using them according to their own purpose.
- Budgeting the available time and using it wisely in order to successfully reach their goals.
- Using evaluation devices and instruments to evaluate their own skill and check their own progress.
- Using feedback from self-evaluation to determine when they are ready to submit the results of their work to the teacher for final observation and evaluation.
As you break away from primary reliance on the formal lecture/presentation and the group assignment, you begin to work more on one-to-one basis with individual students. With less time spent preparing and delivering formal presentations, you have more time to spend on activities such as the following:
- Analyzing students’ academic abilities, occupational strengths, learning styles, major goals and interests, and self-discipline.
- Developing an individual training plan with objectives and activities for (and with) each student.
- Organizing the learning facilities and instruction materials for individualized learning.
- Guiding students through the learning process
- Identifying and diagnosing individual learning problems, and helping students solve those problems through remediation, alternative learning materials or activities, and so on.
- Designing and selecting a variety of ways in which to disseminate information and promote student competence.
- Evaluating student performance on an individual basis.
There are several basic principles that underlie evaluation in individualized instruction:
- Appraisal should indicate progress toward the achievement of performance objectives (knowledge, attitudes, and motor skills).
- Appraisal should be directly related to the performance objectives agreed to by student and teacher.
- Appraisal should be a continual process, undertaken periodically during various stages of the learning experience and forming checkpoints of progress.
- Appraisal should include a variety of strategies, applied in terms of the needs of the student.
- Students should be involved in the appraisal process, performing self-checks on the results of their own work.
- Careful records of individual evaluation and observation should be kept to be used as guides for further instruction and learning.
Some of the evaluation techniques used in individualized instruction may be much like ones used in conventional programs. They may include strategies such as the following:
- Observing students as they work to determine if they are using approved procedures, having any learning problems, and understanding the requirements of the task.
- Questioning students orally about their work to gain an insight into their knowledge of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
- Conferring formally with students to discover the extent of their growth.
- Examining some of the materials the students have been working with to check on their progress.
- Reviewing the results of the learning activities (e.g., reports, projects, exercises)
Students can be personally involved in their evaluation in the following ways:
- Individual evaluation, in which a student checks on the extent of his/her own learning by using teacher-prepared measures
- Group evaluation, in which students who are working on similar objectives confer to determine whether they have achieved the objectives
- Student evaluation, in which one student evaluates another, perhaps using a checklist or rating scale.
- Teacher-student evaluation, in which student and teacher confer and come to agreement on the learning that has taken place and what is still to be accomplished.
If your students feel that they have a stake in the learning process; you will find that not only will your teaching experience be more effective, but it will be enjoyable as well.
Rate your individual unit, using the following scale and being as objective as you can:
5 Excellent—needs no change
4 Good, but it can be improved
3 Acceptable, but requires improvement
2 Poor—needs major changes
1 Very poor—may need total rethinking
0 Unacceptable—something must be done about it
Criteria for Individualized Unit
_____ 1. The objectives are clearly stated in student performance terms.
_____ 2. The learning activities are practicable and clearly stated.
_____ 3. The activities and experiences are directly related to achieving the objectives.
_____ 4. Students have more than one learning option from which to choose for each part of the unit or topic.
_____ 5. Students appear to like to study the topic.
_____ 6. Some device for obtaining feedback from students on the effectiveness of the unit is included.
_____ 7. There is an evaluation procedure for each of the stated objectives.
_____ 8. Evaluation is based on the stated objectives, not on some unstated goals.
_____ 9. The evaluation methods are varied, objective, and effective.
_____ 10. The topic has a clearly defined place in the total program.
_____ Total Score
Treating Students as Stakeholders in Education
Do you encourage student input in creating an effective learning environment?
© 2013 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS