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Personalizing Learning: Targeted Instruction

Personalizing Learning: Targeted Instruction

Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  School Leadership

In our earlier versions of our Core Four of Personalized Learning, targeted instruction was primarily a teacher action separated from another Core Four element, data driven decision making. We recognize that this limited the potential impact that targeted instruction could have to personalize learning for students. As an exclusively teacher action, it missed the opportunity to empower students to advocate for themselves. And separated from data driven decisions, there was a disconnect between two components that go hand-in-hand to help teachers and students design learning experiences tailored for individuals and groups of students.

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In our updated version, we name explicitly that, at its most actualized, targeted instruction means that students can articulate what instruction they are receiving and why, and students have some choice over the instruction they receive based on their data, passions, and preferences. 


By analyzing data and using it to tailor the learning experiences, we shift from a one-size-fits-none approach to a classroom environment grounded in students’ strengths, needs, and interests.


Teachers who target instruction:

  • Have a deep understanding of where each student is academically, and share that understanding with students so they are equipped to take ownership of their academic progress
  • Modify instruction to better meet students where they are
  • Provide opportunities for students to have voice and choice in their instructional experience
  • Regularly update groups based on relevant data sources so that as students progress they continue to have opportunities to demonstrate knowledge at the highest level of mastery


Join us at our upcoming event, Personalized Learning. Reimagined.

Teacher Ashley Brown from Putnam County Schools, TN talks about targeted instruction her her classroom


In order for students to be able to embrace rigorous tasks, such as advocating for the instruction and resources they need, they must understand themselves as members of that academic community. “There’s still not enough effort to connect the dots between what neuroscience tells us about SEL, relational trust, and the student’s ability to do higher order thinking or deep learning. These are at the heart of what it means to be culturally responsive. It’s not either/or but both/and.” (Zaretta Hammond, 2015). Combining what research suggests about how students learn as well as the lived experiences within real classrooms, we must honor students as key drivers in their own learning experiences by connecting those dots. 



Targeted instruction should start small. Consider what data sources are most relevant for an upcoming unit or lesson, and gain insight into where students are academically. Consider what scaffolds students who haven’t mastered necessary prior knowledge will need in order to be successful in the lesson. Plan a scaffold or mini-lesson to address this, and pull just the students who need it. Remember, groups don’t need to be of equal size. As you get more comfortable analyzing data and grouping students, you can create additional groups as needed and make adjustments in real-time. Throughout the process, be transparent with students about the instructional decisions you’re making and where they have choice, so that they have opportunities to truly own their academic experience.


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