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What is Individualized Instruction?

Individualized instruction is a teaching method that caters to the unique learning needs of each student. It involves customizing teaching strategies, pace, and content to optimize student learning and engagement. But how can educators effectively implement individualized instruction in diverse classrooms?
J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

Individualized instruction is an instructional method that personalizes instruction to the needs and learning style of the learner. This is done by varying the pace of instruction, the method of learning employed and the content to be learned. Often this is accomplished within the context of a larger group through the use of high-quality instructional materials and reduced lecture time. Individualized instruction is not the same as one-to-one instruction; it is simply varying the process to meet the needs of each individual learner in the group.

One of the ways individualized instruction tries to meet the needs of the learner is by varying the pace of instruction. By allowing learners to progress through content at their own pace, more knowledge is retained and less time is wasted. Individuals who are able to grasp a concept quickly are able to move on, while those who need more time to understand can take as much time as they need without pressure to match the pace of the group. This can mean that learners are at different levels in different subjects as well, progressing rapidly through subjects that involve areas of strength, and slower through those that require more effort.

Individualized instruction meets the specific needs of students, even during group work.
Individualized instruction meets the specific needs of students, even during group work.

Another way to personalize instruction using individualized instruction is through the use of carefully selected instructional materials. Individuals with different learning styles may use different materials to study similar content. Those who learn best through listening may use materials with a strong audio component, while visual learners may use a more traditional textbook, or materials with a video component. Computer-based instruction can be a good way to accomplish this, as it often uses a multimedia approach that is useful with a variety of learning styles. Some examples include features that allow text to be heard as well as seen for audio learners, and the incorporation of videos for the visual learner.

Many individualized instruction programs are computer-based.
Many individualized instruction programs are computer-based.

The quality of the instructional materials becomes extremely important when individualized instruction is being used. Materials need to be of exceptional quality, fully explaining the content to be learned. This allows the learner to move at his or her own pace more easily since he or she doesn't need to rely as much on explanations from lectures. It also frees much of the instructor's time from lectures so that he or she is able to spend most of the time monitoring learner's progress and assisting those who need it.

The use of individualized instruction can also meet individual learner needs by allowing content to be varied to a certain degree according to the interests and strengths of the learner. Once basic required content has been learned, individuals can be free to pursue additional learning within the subject according to their interests. Also learners with strengths in certain areas can spend extra time on them, and have them incorporated into other subject areas where possible.

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Discussion Comments


@Bhutan - Wow, that is really sad. I agree that individual instruction can be very effective which is why I believe the homeschool movement has taken off.

Parents are starting to realize that if they educate their children at home and offer a more individualized approach, their children would learn more and be further ahead in school. Parents can tailor their educational needs in order to meet the needs of their kids.

For example, if the child is an excellent reader, the parents could continue a literature study that is a little more advanced and possibly introduce a foreign language like Latin that will challenge their mind and give them a more superior language arts background.

A parent can even choose to offer individual instruction regarding language roots in order to study for the spelling bee. In fact, one of the winners a few years ago was a homeschooled student that was well versed in Latin and word origins.

I also think that homeschooling is closing the gap on children’s deficiencies. The public schools have to teach to the average student which means that if your child is struggling there is not much they can do. Some kids for example, that have ADHD do very well with individualized instruction at home because the parent can do shorter lessens with the child and later come back and finish. A school can’t do that because they are running on a schedule.


@Subway11 - I think that more schools should have programs like this because too often gifted students get ignored because the focus is on the remedial students which are more of a pressing priority.

The problem with gifted students is that if they don’t get the right balance of challenging work in school they may associate school as boring and may actually underperform in the future.

This is what happened to a cousin of mine. He tested in the gifted range and the school wanted to accelerate him a year, but his parents wanted to keep him with his friends.

What ended up happening is that this kid got a C average in high school which allowed him to get away without doing any work and never went to college. He viewed school as boring and did not want to continue. This is why differentiated classrooms are necessary in my opinion or some form of individualized instruction in the classroom.


@Sunshine31 - I agree because many children learn differently so in order to provide effective instruction you really have to alter your method of teaching to reach all students.

I know for example that some gifted students are offered curriculum instruction that is computer based and beyond the scope of the classroom material. This allows the gifted student to receive the curriculum instruction that is appropriate to his needs while allowing the rest of the class to continue with their course of study.

I know that many prominent universities also offer computer based curriculum for children that test in the 98 percentile on a standardized test or those that have an I. Q. of 130 or more.

Many schools subscribe to this program and it allows their gifted students to continue to progress at their own pace because these programs also have a testing mechanism so that the teacher can get feedback as to what the student has learned.


I really like the idea of individual instruction in the classroom because some children are more advanced than others and need more stimulation.

There are also children that may need additional reinforcement of the material because they may be having trouble with this. A great teacher is able to use this method of teaching so that all children work to their potential by maximizing the learning opportunites.

My son’s teacher will often include additional sheets in the homework packet that is either to be used as a reinforcement tool because the he did poorly in class, or the teacher will offer more acclearated homework if that is an area that he has mastered.

My son has received both types of assignments and I really appreciate that.

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    • Individualized instruction meets the specific needs of students, even during group work.
      By: Sergey Nivens
      Individualized instruction meets the specific needs of students, even during group work.
    • Many individualized instruction programs are computer-based.
      By: 06photo
      Many individualized instruction programs are computer-based.