top of page

Instructional-Design Theories and Models: Volume IV, The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education

Edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, Brian J. Beatty & Rodney D. Myers       2017

Chapter 4

Principles for Personalized Instruction

William R. Watson & Sunnie Lee Watson


Editors’ Foreword


Preconditions (when to use the theory)


  • All kinds of content.


  • All kinds of students.

      Learning environments

  • Learner-centered rather than teacher-centered.

      Instructional development constraints

  • Minimal.


Values (opinions about what is important)

      About ends (learning goals)

  • Development of student self-regulation skills is highly valued.

  • Development of intrinsic motivation and love of learning is highly valued.

  • Mastery of knowledge and skills is highly valued.

      About priorities (criteria for successful instruction)

  • Effectiveness and intrinsic motivation of the instruction are more important than efficiency.

      About means (instructional methods)

  • Choices that foster intrinsic motivation are highly valued, including student goals, learning tasks, assessments, and reflection.

  • Learning through social interaction is highly valued.

      About power (to make decisions about the previous three)

  • Empowering learners to make decisions about ends, priorities and means is highly valued.


Universal Principles

     1. Personalized instructional goals

  • Learners should set and periodically revisit their long- and short-term learning goals with appropriate amounts of guidance through social interaction with their teacher and parents.

  • The development of a personal learning plan should be structured around long- and short-term goals and required and optional standards.

  • The teacher should help students to identify strengths and interests they were unaware of.

  • Motivational whole-task projects should be selected in a way that encompasses competencies that are less engaging to the learner.

  • A detailed record should be kept of the student’s progress on his or her personal learning plan.

     2. Personalized task environment

  • Selection of the instructional task should be personalized to align with the learner’s interests, goals, and prior learning.

  • An instructional agent should offer subsets of potential tasks for the student to choose from or design.

  • The degree of collaboration on tasks should be personalized, with the teacher and student a) negotiating which tasks will best be done individually and which through collaboration, and b) negotiating the students with whom to collaborate.

     3. Personalized scaffolding of instruction

  • The quantity and quality of instructional scaffolding should be personalized to the student’s self-regulation skills and developmental needs through a combination of embedded scaffolds and scaffolding from teachers and peers.

     4. Personalized assessment of performance and learning

  • The assessors of task performance and attainments should be personalized by choosing among the teacher, external experts, peers, and computer systems.

  • The means of assessing task performance and attainments should be personalized to align with the student’s goals and interests through choice of the nature of the product or activity and its representation.

     5. Personalized reflection

  • When and how a student reflects on her or his learning process should be personalized.

  • Personalization should occur regarding when and how a student reflects on how her or his resulting product or performance met and did not meet expected outcomes.


Situational Principles

     Personalized instruction in time-based systems

  • Students could choose to master a subset of a course’s objectives in exchange for a lower negotiated grade.

  • Teachers could integrate learning tasks across courses to provide additional time for learning and more authentic, whole-task learning approaches.

  • Teachers could give students incompletes until they master all required learning objectives.

  • Goals could be lowered from mastery to competence, or grades could be awarded based on where the student lies on the continuum between novice and expert.

     Personalized instruction without supporting technology

  • A paper-based system should be implemented to plan for, track, store, and report on student learning.

     Personalized instruction for traditional students

  • Special attention should be paid to developing self-regulated learning skills in students from teacher-centered schools, with significant scaffolding early in their personalized learning process.

  • Teachers should work with families to help them fully understand and reinforce the culture and philosophy of personalized learning.

     Personalized instruction for online learning

  • A strong communication process should be used to ensure frequent communication among teachers, students, parents, and collaborators.

  • Students should be given more scaffolding and structure.

  • A strong sense of learning community should be established.

  • Greater advantage should be taken of collaborators from around the globe.


Case Description

     The Decatur Enrichment Center

                                                                                                                           –  C.M.R., B.J.B & R.D.M.

Photo of Vol4.jpg
bottom of page