Thursday, December 2, 2010

Individualized Instruction: Good or Bad?

individualIn Is individualized instruction a bad thing? from Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod mentions a comment from Diana Senechal that she left on a Wall Street Journal article about computers’ burgeoning ability to individualize student learning:

“While "individualized instruction" seems an unequivocal good, perhaps it is not. There is something to be said for asking students to pay attention to something that does not immediately interest them, something they may not immediately understand.”

Then Scott asks, “What do you think of Diana’s comment? Is individualized instruction and/or learning a bad thing?”

I thought about this for a long time and then couldn’t resist answering this question.

I think individualized instruction is important for all learners. Individualized instruction does not mean that all rules and expectations need to be individualized. In life, some people may ride a bicycle, drive a car, or walk to work, but we all follow basic traffic rules and expectations. The same thing applies to individualized instruction. I think behavior is being confused with instruction.

Too many times we have tried to make all students fit into the same mold causing many to fall by the way side. How many times have we heard about inventors who were poor students but were able to invent something that we just can’t live without?

I think it is important to teach students to know what ways work best for them. Students need to learn to be their own self advocates. Teachers can give individualized instruction but first they need to know what works best for the individual student.

When I taught students who had trouble passing the exit exam in order to receive a high school diploma, I noticed that the students were at all different levels of skills. There was no way to reach all of them by teaching one lesson per day to all of them. Using pretests, I was able to find out what skills each student needed to work on and move forward from there. Since they also learned at different rates, many of them did not need the same amount of time to learn the same skill. So, each student had their own individualized instruction and I had very little behavior problems during the year.

Even though each student may have been learning individual skills, they still were expected to follow basic rules of the classroom. Each student was expected to finish their assignments, do their homework, raise their hand, be respectful, and come prepared for class. Many basic expectations do not need to be individualized.

As an adult, I know what my learning style is and try not to put myself into situations that may conflict with this if possible. I also have found that if I have to be in certain situations, I find ways to make the situation easier for me. I really do not learn if I have to sit and listen to a lecture but I have found that if I can do something with my hands, I am able to focus on the lecture more easily. Since I took up knitting, I usually bring my knitting with me and this really helps me focus. If I am in a small room with a lecturer, I usually let the person know what I’m doing so that I don’t appear rude. Unless we let students explore and learn how to do this, they will be unable to make these decisions for themselves later in life. Isn’t this part of preparing them for life?

So, I guess my bottom line is that individualized instruction is not only a good thing but I feel it is extremely important to all students.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree and why?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Ever have the feeling that you just don't quite fit in?' by: Steve Wall

1 comment:

Lisa Parisi said...

Wow. When did individualized instruction come to mean individualized content? I believe it is our job as educators to open doors for children, introducing them to and insisting they work with topics that are new and may even be uninteresting to them. But how they approach that content and demonstrate that learning should be individualized. And that is individualized instruction. You are so right to say children do need to follow the same rules and meet the same expectations. The individualization is how they get there.