Differentiated instruction versus Personalised learning
Differentiated instruction allows instructors to adjust different aspects of their courses: curriculum, assessment, learning activities, and so on to the learning needs of all students. In other words, this pedagogical approach aims to tailor the instructions for each student so they can meet the identified learning goals.
Personalized learning also aims to address the diversity in students’ learning needs and interests. In this approach, students take ownership of their own learning by constructing their own educational pathway, from learning goals, activities to assessment.
According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE):
“Instead of education being something that happens to the learner, it is something that occurs as a result of what the student is doing, with the intent of creating engaged students who have truly learned how to learn.”
Differentiated and Personalized learning: What is the difference?
While differentiated instruction keeps instructors as the drivers in adapting the lessons to address different students’ needs, personalized learning emphasizes student’s agency and autonomy in crafting their education. The table below sums up the key distinctions between these two approaches:
How to implement differentiated instruction and personalized learning
Differentiated and personalized learning are considered dynamic enhancement to the classroom, rather than a replacement. However, it can be challenging to allocate enough time and resources to either differentiate instructions and personalize learning experiences  . This is where pedagogical technology comes in: presenting endless potential to transform course designs, while saving time in creating and facilitating learning activities . Instructors can utilize many teaching tools in different aspects of the lesson planning, from content creation, delivery, grouping, assignments design to assessment.
So how can digital tools be leveraged to implement differentiated and personalized instruction effectively, especially when hybrid and online learning will persist in the upcoming semesters and beyond? Read on and explore some of the best practices to create differentiated and personalized learning environments, with the aid of technology.
1. Understanding different learning needs
“Differentiation doesn’t ask teachers to begin by individualizing instruction…. It asks teachers to look for patterns of need.”
Carol Ann Tomlinson, Professor at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education emphasizes the importance of understanding students’ needs before adapting teaching instruction. Differentiated instruction requires instructors to “get to know” their students in 3 aspects namely  :
Readiness refers to learners’ current knowledge and skills regarding the subject matter. To measure this, instructors can issue knowledge tests via online quiz tools at the beginning of the courses. Some suggestions for assessment tools are: Kahoot, Survey Monkey, FeedbackFruits Quiz tool.
Interest involves the topics, activities, or assessment types that trigger students’ curiosity and motivate them to participate in the learning process. An online survey is an effective method to collect this information, which can be easily created and distributed with several tools like Survey Monkey, Google Forms, and so on.
Learning profile describes the learning preferences, physical and social factors that influence students’ knowledge uptake. Instructors can build learners’ learning profiles by sending out questionnaires, or setting up a discussion forum where students can share some interesting facts about themselves.
Personalized learning, similarly, requires instructors to really understand the diversity in backgrounds, learning preferences and barriers of the students. Doing this allows for making informed decisions on course design.
2. Balancing formative and summative assessment
A key determinant for successful differentiation and personalization lies in “the constant flow of data from student work” . By continuously measuring and recording students’ performance and progress, instructors can gain valuable input to adjust and tailor the tasks to be more engaging, motivating, and accessible.
A combination of summative and formative assessments is essential to help instructors collect these inputs. While formative assessment informs what still needs to be done to achieve the learning goals, summative assessment measures how well the objectives have been reached.
And with different teaching tools, instructors can effectively adopt a mixed-assessment approach. This article shares 5 effective strategies to smoothly integrate both summative and formative assessment in hybrid and online learning to generate valuable input for decision-making.
3. Providing continuous, quality feedback
The ultimate goal of differentiation and personalization is to create an inclusive and accessible learning environment where students can develop their learning path. But to achieve this, students first need to learn how to critically evaluate and reflect on peers’ and their own performance. Feedback is therefore crucial to stimulate such skills.
Quality, descriptive, and actionable feedback guides both instructors and students to identify the knowledge gaps then timely make improvements. Furthermore, feedback should happen at different levels (Task/Product, Process, Self-Regulation and the Self), and from all learning stakeholders (teacher-student, student-student, and self evaluation).
So how can technology play a part in issuing quality, multi-layer feedback? FeedbackFruits offers plenty of options:
The Automated Feedback tool harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to provide feedback on students’ academic writing skills. This LMS plug-in enables students to receive almost-instant formative feedback at lower-order writing aspects like grammar, spelling, punctuation, and references, based on criteria set by teachers. Students can iterate on their assignments before they hand in a final version, incorporating the actionable, inline AI-generated feedback suggestions as much as they like. At the same time, instructors reduce the reviewing workload to focus on the higher-order aspects of writing like argumentation, and reasoning.
To facilitate teacher-student feedback, Assignment Review and Skill Review let instructors give feedback on assignments and skills based on feedback criteria. The tools transform the traditional feedback process into a two-way dialogue by allowing students to respond to teachers’ feedback. This way, students can understand what criteria their work is assessed on and reflect on the given feedback better. Moreover, you can scale the assessment process by reusing your feedback comments.
FeedbackFruits Peer Review is the tool for peer feedback and peer learning, allowing teachers to create assignments for students to provide feedback on their peers’ deliverables, while at the same time reflecting on the received feedback to improve their own drafts. Furthermore, instructors can set up a self-assessment step during the peer review process in which students critically review their own contribution before assessing others’, based on the same criteria.