Using Technology to Individualize Classroom Instruction

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This is a brief guide to using’s resources to reach every student in your class.

Students often bring a wide range of knowledge, previous experiences, interests, study strategies, and motivations into the classroom. Imagine you’re a history professor teaching your subject to a classroom split between major and non-majors. Or a middle school English teacher trying to improve the writing skills of students who have all sorts of educational backgrounds. How do you reach everyone? How can you ensure that all of your students improve their skills over the course of the term? Here are a few ideas:

Assess students’ current knowledge 
 Numerous studies have shown the importance of building on students’ prior knowledge. Learning a new subject is quite similar to building a house: first you lay the foundation, then establish a framework, then fill in the walls, and finally add some furniture and d├ęcor. The challenge? Students tend to arrive in class with different levels of prior knowledge. Some might have strong foundations, while others’ foundations are shaky. It’s therefore important to establish what your students have already learned and meet them where they are.

 For this reason, I recommend using a low-stakes (ungraded) diagnostic activity at the beginning of the course. offers quizzes and tests that allow you to assess student knowledge. The quizzes following every lesson allow you to track progress at regular intervals. Plus, regular check-ins allow students to see for themselves where the gaps in their knowledge are. They then know what to focus on when they’re studying.

Tailor your curriculum to a wider variety of students
 Once you’ve assessed prior knowledge, it’s time to start building on it! Since students are often at different levels, you might find it difficult to pitch your lessons to the appropriate audience. helps address this common challenge. Its self-paced video lessons and virtual classrooms provide enrichment for the entire class. You can assign lessons to the entire class while also assigning background lessons to students who need catching up and higher-level enrichment activities to students who require more of a challenge. In addition, the site keeps a record of completed assignments, giving you at-a-glance information on each student’s progress.

Don’t force everyone into one mold. It’s important to recognize the value that a variety of student perspectives brings to your classroom. After all, there’s more than one way to write a good paper, study for a test, or learn a new skill. Don’t make the mistake of quashing student creativity for the sake of bringing everyone to the exact same level.

 Often, students learn best when they’re encouraged to reflect on how they learn and given the freedom to chart an intellectual course of their own. Supplementing classroom instruction with online resources allows students to learn at their own pace, repeat lessons as needed, jump ahead if interested, and absorb information in a variety of formats (text, image, video) depending on their individual preferences.

Keep course material organized 
Provide a roadmap of your course. Make explicit what the intended learning outcomes are. Are you teaching a particular body of content? Are you focused on honing particular skillsets? Show students exactly what they can expect to learn, and how you plan to teach them. Many students feel more motivated if they can see where the class is headed and therefore understand the purpose of each lesson. To that end, courses are clearly organized into modules with user-friendly outlines. For students who struggle to see the forest for the trees, this kind of organization is extremely helpful.

Continue to enhance your teaching expertise
Speaking of different levels, offers resources for teachers as well! As a teacher, you enter your classroom with vast amounts of prior knowledge and training, but you will of course continue learning throughout your career. can come in handy here, whether by helping you earn your teaching credentials in the first place, or by expanding your expertise to new subjects and grade levels. Its teacher certification courses will help prepare you for certification tests like the Praxis, FTCE, and TExES exams using the same research-backed learning strategies that make this platform so helpful for your students.

References and further reading
Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., Lovett, M., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research – Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Building Upon Students’ Prior Knowledge and Skills.” Yale Center for Teaching and Learning.
Dirks C., Wendroth M.P., Withers M. (2014). Assessment in the College Classroom. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Co.
National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Kurlaender M., Howell J.S.. (2012). Academic Preparation for College: Evidence on the Importance of Academic Rigor in High School. Advocacy & Policy Center Affinity Network Background Paper. College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
Summative and Formative Assessment.” Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University Bloomington.

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