#LearningIs personal

We all learn differently. Each of us has preferences. Everyone of us has individual needs and personal requirements. We are unique individuals. Unfortunately, most of us are products of education systems that are based on the industrial model of education which is far removed from personalised learning. Standardised content and testing, synchronisation of behaviour, compartmentalisation of content and batch processing by age are features of this model of schooling. It means that everyone has to try to fit in, even if the methods and environments don't meet their needs.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: 'In large states public education will be mediocre in the same way that cooking in large kitchens is usually bad.' Standardised education has been criticised with the observation that 'one size does not fit all', but the counter argument is that if we didn't standardise what happens in our schools, there would be no state funded education. It would be too expensive to manage a personalised education system that suited everyone's needs and preferences.

So is there a better way, and one that is affordable?

The personalised learning movement continues to grow in influence. An body of literature, books and videos has emerged in recent years explaining the benefits of the personalised curriculum, espousing individualised assessment and championing student centred learning. There is also a regular international conference dedicated to personalised learning environments. But how much of this work has actually been put into practice on a grand scale? I believe there is a place for personalised learning in large state funded education systems, but it is difficult to break through the wall of standardisation. Some schools have managed, largely due to visionary leadership, rather than as the result of any governmental intervention. Personalised learning is an agenda arising from the grass roots, because its ideological basis is far removed from most governmental ideals.

Personalised learning places the student firmly at the centre of the learning process. Teachers become guides and co-learners, supporting learning and largely standing back so that it can be achieved. Students are encouraged to be more proactive in their learning, and are allowed to choose/bring their own devices into the classroom. These become personal windows on the world, enabling them to drill down and investigate for themselves, the finer details of content they need to learn. Personal learning environments reach beyond the technologies institutions provide - especially virtual learning environments/managed learning environments. Even assessment can be personalised. In schools, assessment of pupil progress is a form of ipsative assessment, where students are measured against their own previous performances. Personalised learning is possible, but not always adopted due to the resistance from many schools who find it easier and less time costly to follow pathways they have already created.

Photo by Cyrillic on Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
#LearningIs personal by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Aaron Davis said…
Nice piece Steve, I am particularly taken by your discussion of assessment. I recently read Doug Rushkoff's new book (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=1916) and was left wondering what it meant for education. A part of me wonders if the mass testing regime is an unrealistic mirror of growth perpetuated by corporations.
Maybe the analogy doesn't work, not sure.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Aaron. I haven't read Rushkoff's latest yet - will get around to it. On the subject of testing though - there was a great quote from a head teacher yesterday on BBC1 which was reporting on the confrontation between headteachers are our current Education Secretary for England. He said 'You can assess without testing'. Says it all, really.
paul martin said…
Sadly I think the key word above is integrity. Teachers have passed kids through the system until (where I met them in FE) their lack of literacy causing prison to be an option. Second kids will abuse BYOD - the cost is such that this should be not an issue the real problem is the LA Ipad debacle. Finally the HT who shouted at Nicky Morgan: Who´s in charge you are Nick Gibb brings the whole profession into disrepute.

Sorry to be so -ve ...
Steve Wheeler said…
Not negative at all Paul - just saying it like you see it. I have to disagree with your comment about BYOD. I have never been in a classroom yet where I've seen kids abusing BYOD when they are fully engaged and the teacher is on the ball. I think those are the two key criteria for success at any level of education.

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