Effective Instructional Approaches

Individualized Learning vs. Personalized Learning vs. Differentiated Instruction

Today’s classrooms are filled with diverse students of varying interests, backgrounds, abilities and learning needs. Today’s teachers have access to many different instructional approaches. To implement these instructional approaches effectively and offer students the education they need to be successful, it is important to compare the differences in these instructional approaches. Differentiated Instruction is often used in Tier 1 group instruction. In this approach, the goals for groups of students are the same, however to the extent possible instruction is tailored to meet the learning needs, preferences and goals of individual students. Individualized Learning focuses on the needs of the individual student. With this approach, content, instructional technology and pace of learning are based on the readiness, abilities and interest of each student. Individualized instruction provides a platform in which students can speak about subjects in the context of their lives and become active learners. Personalized Learning is instruction that is tailored to the preferences and interests of various learners, as well as instruction that is paced to a student’s unique needs. 

Learn more about the differences between personalized, differentiated and individualized learning.

The Ascend Math Individualized Learning Plan

Every student has different skill gaps. Whether for intervention or enrichment it is ideal to have students focused on what they don’t know. Ascend Math is one of the few math intervention programs to provide a truly individualized learning plan for each student. Ascend meets students at their actual level of mastery—identifying skill gaps and tailoring instruction to focus on the most-needed content.

Introduction to Ascend Math

Students first take the Ascend Math Level Recommendation Screener

Most math intervention programs offer only on-grade level instruction.  Ascend Math reaches each student at their functional grade level addressing their individual skill gaps. Using Ascend, students with gaps three, four or more grades below level are set up to start seeing success immediately and get the help they need.

The adaptive Level Recommendation Test or Screener identifies skill gaps and recommends at which functional level students should begin working in Ascend.


  • Adaptive AI, artificial intelligence, varies the difficulty based on the student’s responses.
  • Can usually be completed in under 20 minutes.
  • Quickly reaches to the lowest level at which the student has a skill gap.

Students Begin their Daily Work Flow

The Personalized Teaching and Learning Cycle below shows the process that begins after students takes the level recommendation screener. You’ll see more about learning activities and post assessment on the Award-Winning Instruction page.

Students interact with learning opportunities while teachers actively supervise progress.

Personalized Learning Plans Reach the Students Lowest Level

Ascend Math creates a personalized prescriptive learning plan for each student focused on individual need, whether that’s filling math gaps quickly or building an accelerated course of study. In this way, Ascend teachers can address multiple levels of intervention within a single classroom and each student receives a rich, differentiated learning experience. Consequently, students are often able to grow two or more grade levels in a single semester or less.

The diagnostic Pre-Assessment Report outlines the student results of the pre assessment.

  • The students in this 6th grade class are working on different functional levels yet each student is assigned a different learning path within the level and identified by the standard.
  • The Pre-assessment indicates that Cleary Paola understands all but one objective.  It will be added to her Individual Learning Plan.
  • Justin Pitt will complete the skill gaps marked in blue in sequence.
  • Every objective is correlated to your rigorous state standards.
    View State Standards

Students complete a grouping of objectives quickly and then move on to the next brief pre-assessment thereby building an individual study plan one piece at a time.  In this way, students who have been frustrated feel encouraged as they successfully fill skill gaps quickly.