What is an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) and Why Do You Need it for Student Success?

What is an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) and Why Do You Need it for Student Success?

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail — Benjamin Franklin
Setting goals and planning is a recipe for success. However, before any individual can set a goal and carve out a plan to reach that goal, they need to consider what it is they are aiming for. 
Motivation to follow the plan and reach one’s goals will only follow if one is genuinely interested in the outcome.  
This mindset is the reasoning behind the Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), an educational tool used  by 43 states.
What is an ILP and how does it help put students on the path towards success? Let’s take a look.

Definition and Reasoning Behind an Individualized Learning Plan

According to a Gallup Poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 28% of students are not engaged in school and 19% are actively disengaged in school. 
According to the APA article, students are disengaged because they believe what is being taught in school has no relevance to the real world. 
The article further states that “students are more likely to be fully engaged in school if they expect they can do well and if they value the learning that schools provide.”
Therefore, the challenge for schools is to create relevance. One way to create relevance is to personalize the educational journey, so each student feels they are learning what they need to know.
Students need a personal connection to the material… Without that, students may not only disengage and quickly forget, but they may also lose the motivation to try,” says Sara Bernard in Edutopia.
An Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) can help students feel more connected to their studies. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) defines an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) as: “both a document and a process that students use – with support from school counselors, teachers, and parents – to define their career goals and postsecondary plans in order to inform their decisions about their courses and activities throughout high school.”
According to Prepare Rhode Island, an Individualized Learning Plan or ILP,  “is a student-directed planning and monitoring tool that… documents students’ interests, needs, supports, course selections, transition placements and other learning experiences both in and out of school. This information produces a thoughtful program of study leading to proficiency for graduation and postsecondary experiences.”

Benefits of an Individual Learning Plan

What are the benefits of an Individualized Learning Plan or an ILP?
For starters, an ILP can increase student interest and motivation. 
According to The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, a non-profit Think Tank,  “when implemented effectively, ILPs have been shown to foster higher levels of student motivation to persist in school, a result of increased clarity regarding postsecondary options, goal-setting skills, and understanding of their own interests.”
They cite other benefits of an ILP as well, such as increase in attendance, fewer disciplinary referrals, improved academic self-efficacy, a greater likelihood of students engaging deeply in challenging academic work, and students being more thoughtful about post high school decisions. 

How to Get the Most Benefit from an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP)

Students tend to become more focused on their post high school future when they reach high school (11th and 12th grade). 
However, students would benefit from starting this process earlier in their educational careers.  
According to The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, “research suggests that these outcomes are most prominent when students engage in career planning activities prior to entering high school, rather than during high school alone.”
So, schools can and should begin the process much earlier. 
In fact, “ILPs appear to be more effective when they are regularly reviewed and updated beginning in middle school and continuing through and beyond high school. In this way, ILP activities occur regularly throughout the academic year rather than just once per year,” as stated by The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. 
In addition, it’s recommended that ILP’s are regularly revisited with Prepare Rhode Island suggesting “twice each school year, and at key transition periods for students.”
And what should an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) include? 
According to The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, a quality Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) offers students opportunities to engage in three phases of skill development: self-exploration, career exploration, and career planning and management.” 
Xello has age appropriate material for students as early as kindergarten. In elementary school, students can begin developing a solid foundation for future success by formulating the building blocks of meaningful life and career development, setting them up for smoother transitions in school and life. The lessons encourage self-discovery, create career awareness, and build future readiness skills.

Individualized Learning Plan Vs. Individualized Education Plan

The education field uses many acronyms which can become confusing. To clarify, an Individualized Education Plan or IEP is different from an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP).
Every student who gets special education services must have an IEP. An IEP as defined by the Center for Parents Information & Resources as, “a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs.” 
Students can be involved in developing their own IEPs but it is not a requirement and is dependent upon capability, age, etc.
Students may have both an IEP and an ILP.
While both the ILP and IEP are living documents that are regularly updated, there are important differences. An ILP is for all students, and they play a key role in its development. In addition, the focus of an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) is preparing students for post high school success.


Expecting a student, particularly those in the younger grades, to know exactly what they want is not realistic. However, as students age, they begin to develop distinct preferences, skills, strengths, and interests.
Recognizing that those elements may be most appropriate for particular professional areas can be inspiring and pique a student’s interest as they can clearly see relevancy. Sure, they may very well change as they age but as long as they are working towards a goal and planning for the future, there’s a greater chance they’ll be inspired and put in their best efforts.
An Individualized Learning Plan helps students see beyond the walls of the classroom and imagine themselves in the future. ILPs encourage planning, goal setting and preparing for the future which means a greater chance of future success for the student.