Five Ways to Flip the Classroom That Aren’t “Personalized”

--Originally published at Benjamin L. Stewart, PhD

I continue my argument (see here, here, and here) against using the term "personalized instruction".  This post was inspired by Franklin´s 5 Ways to Personalize Instruction.

1.  Getting to know your students vs. get to know your students.

An instructor never truly gets to know her students. Instead of thinking dichotomously, consider the act of getting to know someone in terms of degree.  Finding ways to flip a classroom is all about getting to know one's students; flipping the classroom is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, but one viewed in terms of degree

2.  Applying an evidence-based instruction approach underpins the flipped classroom experience.

By using plenty of formative assessment, engagement between instructor and student provides the basis for instruction that serves the needs, interests, and learning preferences (as opposed to learning styles) of each student.  Evidence based on observation frames how much instruction is didactic or facilitative. Thus, in a flipped classroom environment, one is likely to see instruction potentially emerge from any individual, any place, and at any time.

3. Adapting and adopting leads to flow.

In a flipped classroom, the instructor and students adapt and adopt to content, technologies, and to each other as learning outcomes and learning objectives align.

4. Utilizing performance tasks bridges learning outcomes to learning objectives.

A performance task that maintains an authentic goal, student roles, audience, situation, purpose, and standard of outcomes is best served when it precedes instruction.  In a flipped classroom, technologies afford learners greater opportunities to participate in performance tasks that are more authentic (serve a common good).

5. Technologies should facilitate, not frustrate.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) should be purposeful and quickly adoptable for teachers and students.  However, sometimes, less is more.

A simple analogy: Google Play's Listen Now takes my play history and makes recommendations (but does not personalize my listening experience).  Sometimes these recommendations are useful while other times they are not.  Most of the time I simply search for tunes (adapt) or just stick to my current playlist (adopt).  So, I do not have to use all of the options from Google Play to get the most out of my own personal listening experience. Notice how personal listening experience is not the same as a "personalized listening experience".

ICTs (in whatever form) should help the instructor and learner become more autonomous (i.e.,  becoming more interdependent) by engaging in content and with other individuals.


Not any of the five points listed above have anything to do with "personalized instruction".  Take point #2 as an example.  In order to personalize instruction, there would need to be one form of instruction for each student that would somehow be within the control of the instructor (teacher).  "Personalized instruction" is impossible, but personalized learning is totally possible (and expected) since this shifts an external locus of control to an internal locus of control (from the learner's perspective).  Thus, Instructors help learners better understand their personal learning networks by helping them become more autonomous.

When it comes to instruction, teachers have an obligation to help learners make decisions about the content, processes, products, and environments that relate to learning outcomes - otherwise known as differentiated instruction.  Differentiating instruction involves the students throughout the educative experience by allowing them some degree of choice.  Empowering students by improving the decision-making processes is the foundation for 1) getting to know students better, 2) providing evidence-based instruction, 3) adapting and adopting flow, 4) aligning performance tasks (assessments) to learning objectives (curriculum), and 5) recognizing that sometimes less is more when it comes to ICTs as human behavior is complex.

1 Comment

  • This may be one of the best-articulated responses to the “personalized learning” narrative built around ed tech. The Google Play analogy is spot-on and connecting everything back to assessment – especially formative – is a powerful connection that is often overlooked in the effort to personalize everything.

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