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Tailored teaching

Updated: Aug 2, 2022



We are perched on the cusp of change as our age-old pedagogies witness a major shift in their approach. We are at a stage in teaching where it is an overwhelming task for the teachers to know whether we are getting it right, for every child, every day? One answer to this predicament can be – Tailored Teaching.

It is the process in which a teacher uses assessment data to identify a child’s skill level for a learning goal and customize instruction for that child. The teacher uses data on an ongoing basis to see whether the child is progressing in response to the instructional changes and adjusts instructions as needed.

Many researches in India and abroad have shown that several children at the elementary level struggle to master basic skills in reading and math despite a dramatic rise in the number of children enrolled in school around the world. The 2016 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) found that only about half of all grade 5 students in rural India could read a grade 2 text. Children are not only falling behind the curriculum but there is also large variation in learning levels within grades. In 2015, an evaluation in Delhi found that students’ learning levels spanned five to six grades within each grade from grade 6 to grade 9. Teachers are often pressured by schools and parents to complete the grade-level curriculum and do not have enough flexibility to help students as they fall behind.

It was further studied that programs that tailored instructions to students’ learning levels were among the most effective. Whether they reorganized entire classes trained instructors to implement new pedagogies or leveraged technology, all these programs had one thing in common: tailoring instruction to students’ current learning levels. Therefore, greater emphasis should be placed on ongoing child assessments: frequent, repeated observations of children’s performance and growth. Teachers can use ongoing assessments to foster children’s learning and development by examining children’s

performance, tracking their progress, and individualizing instruction to their unique strengths, needs, and interests. The use of ongoing child assessment for individualization is considered a best practice in early education programs.

Policymakers should consider implementing programs that use a portion of instruction time to teach to students’ actual learning levels, rather than based on their age or grade in contexts where students are struggling to master basic skills, there is large variation in learning levels within grades.

“It’s imperative that the country’s educators abandon their fears and try out new ways of teaching as 21st-century India needs job creators and innovators, not armies of clerks good at following instructions and performing repetitive tasks”, says Meeta Sengupta, an alumna of IIM-Ahmedabad, a Delhi-based writer and education and skills development advisor to several think tanks including Centre for Civil Society and FICCI.

Citations: Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). 2019. "Tailoring instruction to

students’ learning levels to increase learning." J-PAL Policy Insights.

ASER Centre. 2016. Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2016. New Delhi,


Disclaimer: Kindly note that the above blog has been submitted by members in their individual capacity.

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