Personalised vs Individualised Learning: What is the Difference?

Although used interchangeably worldwide, the best school in Greater Noida West will refrain from uttering personalised learning and individualised learning under the same breath. Indeed, the concepts are similar.


Although used interchangeably worldwide, the best school in Greater Noida West will refrain from uttering personalised learning and individualised learning under the same breath. Indeed, the concepts are similar. They focus on crafting a classroom’s curriculum based on the students’ educational needs. But the approach taken to apply the concept is where the two tactics deviate and expert educators acknowledge the difference while implementing individualisation or personalisation or both. The two methods of enabling learning come under the umbrella of achieving differentiation. And that is where the elaboration must start.


Achieving differentiation in learning

Imagine the archaic times when students were put under one pedagogy in schools irrespective of the depth of their previous knowledge. The child adept with the concepts of addition and subtraction sat in the same room and listened to the same lecture on multiplication and division as another student who was still struggling to add or subtract bigger numbers. Today, the top CBSE affiliated schools in Greater Noida West do not follow that approach. Even when the classroom is common, the students’ previous knowledge is taken into account, both as an individual or a group, to determine the next steps of the curriculum and how the future lectures should be imparted. This pedagogy is known as differentiation in learning. In the words of education researcher Lorna Earl, “differentiation happens when the right learning tasks reach the right student at the right time”.


Personalised vs individualised learning

How are teachers to achieve differentiation in learning? Either through personalisation or differentiation. Let us understand the difference through the example of teaching multiplication keeping in mind the students’ previous knowledge of addition and subtraction.

The teacher can test the class’s previous knowledge by handing out a standardised test with questions about addition and subtraction of varying difficulties. The average test score is an indicator for the teacher to understand the general skill of the class in adding or subtracting numbers. If the average score is high, the teacher can start teaching long multiplication directly by giving remedial classes to the handful of students who performed poorly. However, if the average score is poor, the teacher will have to revise the concepts of addition and subtraction before moving on. Here, the standardised test made the pedagogy intentional. And this paves the way for individualised learning. The approach is solely dependent on the teacher. He/she (the individual) decides the curriculum’s flow based on the assessment data.

Another way for the teacher to proceed is not to conduct any standardised test at the beginning at all. He/she can start with teaching multiplication but vary the pace of the lecture by noticing the response of the students in real-time. If the students pick up the multiplication concepts easily, it means that their previous knowledge is solid and the teacher moves towards complicated concepts. But if the students seem to be struggling to understand the very basics, then the teacher slows down and focuses on answering individual questions of the students, ensuring everyone has understood the step at hand and then moving on to the next topic. In this way, the students have a say in the flow of the class. The teachers modify intuitively as per the students’ instantaneous needs. This is personalised learning.


Which one is better?

The best schools in Greater Noida West apply both simultaneously. As evident, sticking to one approach will hardly make learning efficient or effective. Excessive focus on individualised learning can slow the pace of the class down. Plus, standardised tests are not effective tools to evaluate previous knowledge as the approach depends on looking at average scores. On the other hand, personalised learning in action solely may leave the weak and introvert students behind who do not speak up when a concept is not clear. The teacher can easily get swayed by the vocal students as intuition fail to capture the needs of the former group. Thus, personalised and individualised learning must work in tandem. That is when a classroom can truly achieve differentiation in learning.

BGS Vijnatham believes in both individualisation and personalisation. The school acknowledges that differentiation is no longer an option in classrooms as the progress of education is truly hinged upon the concept. Through its expert teachers, BGS effectively applies personalised and individualised learning techniques to meet the needs of all students and creates knowledge in the pyramidal structure, one upon the other. Modern science has shown us that no two students are the same. They have unique learning needs, unique patterns to educate themselves. Both personalisation and individualisation tend to work on those lines and thus their necessity in contemporary education.


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