Individualized instruction is a teaching method that tailors instruction to the needs and learning styles of the learners in a regular or mainstream classroom. This means that classes are differentiated.
Readers should not confuse this with individualized education plans or programs ( IEPs ) which are designed for students with learning disabilities and special needs.
My professional experience and information from wiseGEEK, Wikipedia, and other internet resources indicate that individualized instruction improves student achievement. It is different from mass instruction, in which learning content, instructional materials, and pace of learning are the same for everyone.
Mass instruction is problematic because individual students learn at different rates and their learning styles vary. The gifted ones get bored if they are held back and the slower ones need more time. The solution is individualized instruction.
In individualized instruction there are fewer general lectures by teachers. The teacher moves around the classroom monitoring the progress of individual students and giving specific help where it is needed.
The learning goals remain the same for all learners in the class but the learning content, instructional materials and pace of learning are varied by the teacher according to the abilities and interests of individual learners. Learning materials include audio, video, textbooks and computer-assisted instruction and they are varied according to the learning styles of individual learners. Students must have the motivation and self-discipline to study independently and construct their own knowledge.
Students proceed at their own pace through the content. The talented ones move on quickly and are given additional work which is more challenging, while the slower ones take the time they need. Students are therefore functioning at different levels in the same classrooms. Computers and the internet are very helpful in this context. Teachers need to be trained to deliver individualized instruction effectively.
Individualized instruction is more effective than a generalized approach to teaching and learning. Some teachers may think that it is difficult and more time consuming, but with training and experience these obstacles can be overcome.
The Seven Learning Styles:
1. Visual (spatial): using pictures, images and spatial understanding.
2. Aural (auditory-musical): using sound and music.
3. Verbal (linguistic): using words in speech and writing.
4. Physical (kinesthetic): using your body, hands and sense of touch.
5. Logical (mathematical): using logic, reasoning and systems.
6. Social (interpersonal): learning in groups.
7. Solitary (intrapersonal): working alone, use of self-study.
These learning styles are preferences. Each person has a different combination of learning styles. Some people have a dominant style, while others use different styles in different situations. See learning-styles-online.com or edudemic for more information. Teachers who are using individualized instruction will benefit from a clear understanding of the 7 learning styles and the theory of multiple intelligences.