We often come across the terms ‘differentiated learning’ and ‘personalised learning’, especially when it comes to education technology. Both frameworks focus on meeting the diverse educational needs of children, but they are not the same thing. So what’s the difference?

There’s plenty of discussion and varying points of view as to the finer points, but for the purpose of this post we’ll keep it simple.

Differentiation, at its most basic, is the tailoring of learning content, processes and activities to match each child’s ability level as it differs from the ability levels of other children in the same class or age bracket. After assessing a child’s knowledge and ability, a teacher can provide the child with content and instruction to fit their learning needs.

LiteracyPlanet is designed to support differentiated instruction, allowing teachers and parents to easily direct children to the areas of work that are most appropriate for them. It also allows children to explore content for themselves and work at their own pace.

Personalisation, or student-centred learning, goes further by involving the student in determining how they learn best and what works for them. This includes their interests, likes and aspirations, and what their learning objectives should be. It is relationship driven, with an emphasis on positive communication and social interaction between the teacher, the child, the child’s parents, and his or her peers.

As with differentiation, LiteracyPlanet complements the student-centred approach with personalised learning pathways that teachers can create in consultation with each student. Students can also take control with self-directed learning that reflects the agreed goals they have set with their teacher.

Both frameworks have a place in the classroom, even though their implementation can be the subject of much debate. It really is up to education professionals to determine what works best for them and their students.

Further reading:

ASCD, Educational Leadership: What Research Says About…/Differentiated Learning

Differentiated Instruction, Curriculum, Assessment

Getting Smart – Nobody is Average, Every Student Deserves Personalised Learning

Personalised Learning – The Glossary of Education Reform