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Differentiation, individualization and personalization: What they mean, and where they’re headed

differentiation

How do differentiation, individualization and personalization differ? And how do they scale in terms of complexity?

 

Throughout the education sector, we hear a lot about “differentiation,” “individualization” and “personalization.” But what do these terms really mean, and how are they different?

At their core, they all deal with a similar overarching concept: customizing students’ learning experiences to address their particular learning needs.

Customization is incredibly powerful, and educators have long understood that custom-tailored lessons can drive student success more effectively than virtually anything else. But as the degree of customization increases, so too does the complexity of implementation – it’s no small feat for a single teacher to deliver perfectly customized lessons for a class of 30 students.

In response to this challenge, educators have been using a variety of approaches, including: differentiation, individualization and personalization, all of which can scale in terms of complexity.

These are not new concepts; in fact, various forms of differentiation in the classroom have been around since  the 1960s, and individualization and personalization also have been used for some time. Today, with technology, educators now have new opportunities to broaden their use of these methods to reach more students than ever before.

I’ll elaborate on the power of personalization and the role of technology in a moment, but first, let’s define these three distinct terms.

Differentiation, Individualization and – Most Importantly – Personalization

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