As the followers of this blog know, I’ve been exploring generative AI (genAI) for quite a while to find areas where this technology may be useful for language teachers and help us do something that was quite challenging, if not impossible, to achieve without it. If you’re interested in my thoughts on genAI and its impact on language teaching and learning, you can watch this webinar – an early take on this technology when ChatGPT was released, or listen to this podcast by the British Council that we recorded in February and was recently released. In this post, I’m exploring personalisation (after all, this is one of the key promised effects of AI – do you see it being delivered?) and sharing my tool, the Anti-Quiz Maker, to facilitate the process and help come up with a range of personalised exploration questions that better fit students’ contexts and motivations.

Personalisation is something we often discuss; however, we frequently see it implemented as an add-on to language practice – a nice final touch for in-class conversation that is rarely featured in final assessments, did you notice? We can attribute this to many factors, but the key one is probably the power of content-based learning, where everything is centered around the content, be it a textbook or a set of other materials. The learner-centered approach sounds ideal, yet the common practice is to teach using a textbook and assess learning by using the same textbook content as a benchmark. In reality, everything revolves around the textbook or chosen materials, turning our ‘learner-centered’ approach into a ‘textbook-centered’ one.

Another significant challenge is that personalisation is a balancing act, where you need to ensure that all the necessary elements align: motivations, environment/setup, learner-centered materials (personalised input), personalised output, and feedback mechanisms. Achieving this balance can be difficult and requires the significant effort and expertise from teachers.

Now, what exactly is personalisation?

There’s no uniform understanding of what personalisation is in the context of language teaching. It varies from, as Jeremy Harmer defines it, the stage ‘where students use language they have studied to talk about themselves…’ (Jeremy Harmer, How to Teach English, 2007, p.53) to drawing on students’ own experiences and reactions as the foundation for learning, ‘when the content starts with the student himself and then leads into the materials to be learned.’ (Gertrude Moscowitz, Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class, 1978, p. 197) However, regardless of the approach we adopt, they share a common goal: to facilitate the transfer process by forming a deep connection with the learning material, and enhance retention through the self-reference effect. In essence, personalisation is about forging a deep connection between the student and the learning process/material, making it meaningful on a personal level.

Personalisation is like a juggling act

Personalisation is like a juggling act while riding a bicycle on a tightrope. On one hand, the available means for bridging personalised input and output together remain limited. On the other hand, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; their choice depends on numerous factors known only to the teacher working with a particular group of learners in a specific context. They include student personality, age, previous learning experience, family background, wider cultural context, and sometimes the weather, time of day, level of coffee in the teacher, and many more factors that ‘make us human’.

Personality plays a crucial role here – not all students are comfortable sharing details about their personal lives or opinions. So, direct questions of the type ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What did you do this summer?’ may result a blunt response of ‘nothing’ (often interpreted as ‘nothing of your interest’ or ‘nothing that anyone may find interesting’).

Sometimes, previous learning experiences shape students’ expectations of what constitutes ‘real learning.’ I’ve had students, primarily adults, who believed that abundant printed materials and a textbook indicated the value of a class – ‘the thicker the file folder, the higher the value of the class.’ So, any attempt at personalised activities was dismissed as ‘not learning – just talking.’

Given the complexities at play, it’s essential to have a variety of question types that spark personalised and creative responses. Both students and teachers should have adaptable options. That’s why I developed the Anti-Quiz Maker, offering four question types to facilitate personal connections with language material.

How to Use the Anti-Quiz Maker

Unlike traditional comprehension quizzes that assess students’ understanding of a text, this tool generates personalised prompts that encourage students to draw on their own experiences, reflect, and provide creative responses.

Select and paste in your language material,

and specify the Age Group and Proficiency Level of your students.

The tool accepts any text-based material – whether it’s a reading passage, an audio or video clip transcription, vocabulary items, or grammar structures – and generates four different types of personalised exploration prompts. Below, you’ll find several examples of questions generated for different types of input (for Upper-Intermediate/young adults).

A reading passage:

Story -example

A topic:


Vocabulary items:

Vocabulary - example

Grammar structures:

Grammar - example

Don’t go all-in

When the Anti-Quiz Maker generates 10 questions, review and select the ones that fit your context, and tweak them if necessary. (NB. The tool is powered by a large language model, so it’s like a game of chance – try to regenerate the output if it’s a clear miss.) Also, consider letting students choose the question they feel most comfortable answering.


Think about how you’ll give feedback, especially on accuracy. For instance, I jot down students’ mistakes and turn them into a ‘spot the mistake’ activity. However you choose to proceed, steer clear of being the vicar.

I’m still fine-tuning the tool, so I’d love to hear your suggestions and whether you found the Anti-Quiz Maker helpful.

Read more about personalisation:

P is for Personalization 

Evaluating Personalization 

When it comes to practical tips for focusing on form, I find Penny Ur’s ideas particularly helpful – 10 WAYS TO MAKE GAP-FILLS MORE LEARNING-RICH 

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