Individualized instruction

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Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional technology (such as materials) and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner. Mass instruction is the opposite, that is a method in which content, materials and pace of learning are the same for all students in a classroom or course. Individualized instruction does not require a one-to-one student/teacher ratio.

Mass instruction began during the French Revolution and Industrial Revolution, where some citizens were considered equal and large numbers of workers were needed to produce goods in large scale. The idea was to teach groups of students the same skills at the same time in a classroom, instead of having teachers that had in consideration the previous skills of the students as done for centuries. This method reduced costs and time, two important aspects in the era.

Educational Research Associates has concluded that placing greater reliance upon well-designed instructional materials – whether audio, video, multimedia Computer-assisted instruction (CAI), or simply a good textbook – may be as effective as the traditional lecture method. More importantly, it may allow some teachers to focus upon the specific needs and problems of individual students. However, this often ignores the needs of youth with learning disabilities, and those that face other challenges.

In this way, individualized instruction is like direct instruction, which also places greater reliance upon carefully prepared instructional materials and explicitly prepared instructional sequences. But where direct instruction is very rigidly structured for use with children in primary school, individualized instruction is recommended only for students of at least junior high school age, and presumes that they have greater self-discipline to be able to study more independently. Thus, individualized instruction has points of contact with the constructivism movement in education, started by Swiss biologist Jean Piaget, which states that the student should build his or her learning and knowledge. Individualized Instruction, however, presumes that most students of secondary school age still lack the basic knowledge and skills to direct most of their own curriculum, which must be at least partially directed by schools and teachers.

In a traditional classroom setting, time (in the form of classes, quarters, semesters, school years, etc.) is a constant, and achievement (in the form of grades and student comprehension) is a variable.

In a properly individualized setting, where students study and progress more independently, achievement becomes more uniform and time to achieve that level of achievement is more variable.

Where implemented according to Educational Research Associates' recommendations, Individualized Instruction has been found to improve student accomplishment substantially even while reducing cost dramatically. (Oregon Department of Education, 1976) However in recent years, the benefits of social learning in collaborative group settings through place-based and project-based learning have been shown to be equally as effective.

The coming of computer- and Internet-based education holds the promise of an enormous increase in the use of individualized instruction methodology.

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