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Individualized Education: Definition, Application, and Problems

written by: lauraleemoss • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

Individualized education caters to each student so he can receive a personalized and better education. It is not without controversy and extra work. Individualized education is a driving force in education today.

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    Definition

    Individualized instruction consists of student-based activities, lessons and tests. That is, the teacher forms teachings around individual students' strengths, passions and interests. Each student would have curriculum designed with input from the student, his parents and teacher.

    The teacher will cover the curriculum's core ideas, but in different ways, catered for each student. If a particular student enjoys reading, his math teacher may have him read a book about a mathmetician as an approach for learning theorems.

    In a foolproof system, the student would have a individualized education plan that teachers modified as he continued throughout school. Previous teachers would communicate with present teachers for a collaborative approach.

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    Application

    Students with special needs or disabilities most often receive an individualized education. Laws dictate that schools provide such students with personalized curriculums and adaptable resources.

    As special needs students began receiving individualized educations years ago, parents and teachers wanted individualizing programs for general education students. Additionally, brain-based learning theories gave teachers scientific proof that students learn at different speeds, in different ways. Individualized education began infiltrating all of education because of these two forces.

    With a broad application, students may have extended or shortened school years. Classes may take longer and teachers may repeat information. This benefits students because they are not criticized or penalized for working at their own rate. Students will not be bored, as they can move past material once they show themselves proficient. Classroom management should improve because students will be challenged, but not overwhelmed.

    Online classes may work this way, as do many classes outside typical school settings. For example, in a literature class, the teacher could pose several themes or essay questions along with a list of possible books. Students would be able to choose their own books and answer the questions.

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    Problems

    Although the meaning of individualized instruction sounds wonderful, it is not without controversy. Teachers are grading different assignments that come in at different times, causing more work. For example, a science teacher may assign students to make a system of levers and pulleys. Each student would need a rubric for his system, often leaving students and parents debating the fairness of grades. With stuggles in education, such as increased class sizes and smaller paychecks, teachers become unlikely to use individualized instruction.

    Additionally, some students take advantage of individualized instruction. Students may want an easy individualized education, and will settle for easy goals and classes. Still others could manipulate coursework for less challenging assignments. Schools would need a monitoring system.

    Individualized instruction can also slow the grade posting. While students may see this as a benefit, parents seldomly agree. Parents try to stay current with their children's grades so they can intervene if necessary. A child may be failing a class and he and his parents may not know it because his instruction allows for extended deadlines.

    Lastly, individualized education challenges the traditional grading and education system. Parents, students and even teachers may be scared to change.


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