Individualize Learning for Every Student

Traditional classrooms use a one-fit-for-all approach to learning. This approach, however, does not consider the individual strengths and learning styles of students, which can make it more challenging for some students to be academically successful. Personalized learning customizes learning processes for each individual student, equipping students with skills that can help them use their strengths to improve learning. But, many teachers ask us “How can I individualize and personalize learning for every student online?”

Don’t worry teachers, you can individualize and create a unique learning experience for every student (no matter where they are being taught) in a number of ways. The following 6 examples can be used whether teachers and students are in an actual school classroom or online from home.

Learning objectives:
Students collaborate with teachers to set goals and objectives based on their interests and preferences. Throughout the year, teachers  encourage students to prioritize and reflect on their process of goal attainment and make adjustments as needed.

Teachers encourage students to choose their own activities with which to express their learning. For example, instead of writing a 500-word essay, students might choose to make a poster. By giving students this freedom, teachers help them discover and strengthen their interests.

Teachers individualize by allowing for a certain degree of flexibility in the sequence of learning, adding challenges gradually. Teachers also plan for out-of-classroom learning opportunities and using digital learning in classrooms.

Pace of learning:
Students could advance through the learning process at their own pace. For example, some students might require more time to learn a concept  while others may quickly pick it up. When the pace of learning is individualized for every student they become more confident in their abilities and can gain mastery more easily enabling them to quickly proceed to subsequent learning.

Differentiating instructions:
 Teachers tailor instructions, adjust challenges and incorporate accommodations (including technology) based on individual requirements.

Creating specific rubrics and criteria for evaluating both individual learning and group activities that every student engages can be easily done with auto-grading within an LMS such as Google Classroom. The information collected from these assessments helps teachers to further modify or personalize instruction and content.

Benefits of Individualized Learning
By personalizing learning for every student, teachers can:

  • Promote learning anytime, anywhere.
  • Create relevant and meaningful learning experiences for students using technology and online learning tools.
  • Help motivate students and engage them in tasks that interest them.
  • Encourage goal setting, active student participation, mastery of concepts, self-reflection and academic achievements.
  • Enhance student responsibility and accountability towards learning as learning opportunities are created based on individual strengths, preferences and interests.
  • Help students develop self-regulated learning strategies and behaviors and become self-reliant learners.
  • Help students learn at their own pace, without fear of being left behind.
  • Promote interactive and collaborative learning within classrooms.
  • Use assessments to evaluate skills and direct learning towards goal attainment.

By incorporating individualized learning for every student in the classroom, teachers create experiences that capitalize on interests, preferences and strengths. This helps to equalize opportunities for students and helps each student attain their maximum learning potential while gainingn academic success. It also helps teachers reach all students and encourage self-reliance and self-motivation among students.

Examine more benefits to a personalized learning approach in the online continuing education PD course for teachers: Student-centered Learning.

August 2020 Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through, and, Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD for schools.