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Personalization and Differentiation in Action

Personalization and Differentiation in Action

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will review an example unit to see how personalization and differentiation strategies are included.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in today's video lesson, we'll be covering the topic of personalization and differentiation in action. As we learn about this topic, we'll work toward several learning objectives. And in doing, so we'll answer the following questions in this tutorial. How are personalizing instruction and differentiating instruction similar and different? And what do each of these look like in the learning environment?

Let's start by talking about the misconceptions with regards to personalization and differentiation. You may hear things like I'm differentiating instruction. I must be personalizing learning. Or I have a personalized learning environment, and must be differentiating. While there is overlap between these two ideas and concepts, there are some distinct differences.

So let's dive into those differences. First, let's talk about design. In differentiated instruction, the teacher's doing the designing based on the student's individual needs. Instruction is tailored to meet the unique needs of students based on the components of their learning profiles. Often, personalized learning instead incorporates students' ideas into the design. Collaborating together, teachers and students oftentimes design instruction together. It's not the instruction itself that's personalized, but the learning. This learning is based on the student's progress, self-paced, and tailored to learning preferences and interests of students.

Next, let's talk about the goals. In instruction that's differentiated, the goals of learning are the same for every student in your class. Students all work toward the same standard, but might approach the standard in different ways in terms of content, process, product, and learning environment. Collaborating together, teachers and students oftentimes identify goals and develop a learning plan to help meet those goals together in personalized learning. Each student has unique goals, and they may differ from each other.

When looking at support within the learning environment, this also looks different for individualization and personalization. In differentiated instruction, groups of students and individual students are supported by the teacher. The teacher uses various methods, strategies, and approaches to provide different levels of content as needed. This is done by using differentiation strategies based on the evaluation of this particular group of students and their needs. Teachers promote the students' learning profiles. And students are supported by the teacher individually and in small groups during instructional time.

In personalized learning, students are less reliant on the teacher for instructional support. And they may create their own support systems. Peers, experts on the content, and teachers could all be considered support system that students develop here.

Assessment also looks different in personalized and differentiated environment as well. In differentiated instruction, next steps are formed with a careful collection of formative and summative assessment data. Feedback is provided to individual learners based on this assessment data. And the data is used to improve learning opportunities.

Personalized learning allows for more self-directed opportunities. Students are encouraged to self-monitor progress and reflect on their learning based on the mastery of identified competencies. Assessment is meant to be a part of the learning process.

And in terms of the instructional approach, differentiated instruction and personalized learning look different, but there's overlap. Differentiating lessons for individual learners by using carefully selected and varied teaching and learning strategies is an important part of personalized learning.

Let's look at the one-on-one environment. What does differentiated instruction look like here? Real-time data student proficiency and mastery can be gathered by using digital formative assessments. This data can be used to guide instructional decisions. Tools like can be used to provide access to different reading levels of the same material. This tool lets users create multiple levels from the same text.

The station rotation or workshop model can be used. This model provides students with instructional activities and tools to meet their learning needs as they rotate through different stations with various activities. This can be enhanced with technology and online adaptive learning programs as a part of the rotation.

Students can also use different tools to create demonstrations of their understanding. They may be asked-- or have a choice-- to use various publishing tools like writing a blog, creating a Prezi, or creating a book trailer.

Flipped lessons are a creative way to introduce new material that can be used in instruction. Students can play the videos back and reinforce the learning. And other students can have additional or more challenging content, maybe, to watch or practice, if needed.

Let's compare this one-on-one environment in a classroom that includes elements of differentiation with one that includes elements of personalization.

So here's a classroom of personalized learning in a one-on-one environment. Teachers here might use sites like Flat World Project for opportunities for their students to collaborate on authentic real-world problems. The internet is a great resource for researching problems in the community and planning for solutions at different levels. And tools such as Skype can also be used to do this.

A variety of publication tools can be used to publish products for real-world audiences. These could include blogs, wikis, YouTube videos, or Prezis.

Students could track their own learning and progress using that data that guides their pacing and decisions for the next steps in their work.

Finally, teachers and students could collaborate virtually, co-designing their learning based on the feedback. Tools like Google Docs, texting, Google Chat, Skype, and class blogs are all tools that can enhance collaboration opportunities.

So let's talk about all that we learned today. We looked at the following questions in this video lesson. How are personalizing instruction and differentiating instruction different and similar? And what do each of these look like in a learning environment? Today, we looked at the similarities and differences between these two ideas in the classroom environment. And we looked at design, goals, support, and instruction, and how all of these areas have overlapping ideas. But they all look slightly different when personalizing and differentiating. We also compared a one-on-one environment that had elements of personalization and differentiation.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What can you do to better your personalization of learning in your classroom? What can you do to better your differentiation in your classroom?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson Personalization and Differentiation in Action. I hope you found value in this video lesson, and are able to apply these ideas and personalize learning, as well as differentiate learning, in your own teaching.

To dive a little deeper, and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “Personalization and Differentiation in Action”


(00:00- 00:27) Introduction

(00:28- 00:53) Are Personalization and Differentiation the Same?

(00:54- 01:33) Similarities and Differences: Design  

(01:34- 02:05) Similarities and Differences: Goals  

(02:06- 02:59) Similarities and Differences: Support  

(03:00- 03:48) Similarities and Differences: Assessment  

(03:49- 05:07) Differentiating Instruction in 1:1

(05:08- 06:04) Personalizing Instruction in 1:1

(06:05- 06:44) Recap

(06:45- 07:29) Reflection 

Additional Resources

Office of Educational Technology

​This USDOE site provides explanations of individualized, personalized, and differentiated instruction.

I Teach NYC: Find ways to incorporate blended instructional strategies into your classroom 

This page from the NYC Department of Education is a great resource for teachers who are looking to personalize and differentiate instruction.