Saturday, January 06, 2007

'Personalized' Learning - the word for 2007

What are the positive values, passions, dreams and interests that drive any one learner - and how can we tap into them, amplify them, provide experiences that will uncover them, so as to develop, for every learner, a full hand of personalised talents?

The twenty first century will depend on such creative individuals. Talent is the new future capital for individuals, organisations or countries if we are to solve the problems we currently face. Are our industrial aged schools up to the challenge- or will they need to transform themselves into creative learning communities?

A UK review, written by the now head of OSTED ( equivalent to New Zealand;s ERO) , sets out 'their' Government's vision for schooling by 2020.

Personalisation is now the 'in thing' and there are a number of well written reports available from the UK Department of Education and Science to refer to. It is all about replacing the 'one size fits all' approach to teaching and learning with one designed to fit the needs of each child.

Personalisation, or as it is referred to in the US as 'differentiation', is something I have written up in my blog earlier. And, guess what, it is now 'the phrase' used by our own Minister of Education who sees it as an extension of the 1936 vision of the first Labour party which was to provide every child, no matter where they lived in New Zealand, with an education best fitted to their needs.

As a result of past ideals we have a 'mass education provision', the content or assessment of which is predetermined by distant experts, for all students up until the age of 16. As this has not proved to be beneficial to all students, and a 'mass nightmare' to some, what is now required is a 'new' approach. Hardly 'new' as it has been the hard earned philosophy of a number of creative teachers, in all countries, for decades. For such teachers it will seem like 'back to the future' or 'doing the sixties all over again but this time better'!

When you read the statements by politician and educational 'experts' you have to wonder if they mean true personalisation, developing for each learner their own individual learning plan, or simply a means to 'con' the learner into learning what the experts have decided. We have been through this 'individualised' learning curriculum before so lets hope not!

To develop true personalised learning lots of things would have to change - most of all the 'mindsets' of, the teachers , the parents and even the students, all of whom have 'learnt' to see education as something people give to others. And how we assess 'learning' would need the biggest revision of all!

Our draft curriculum makes no mention of the word 'personalisation and, although a positive move , it is a transition between content as 'stuff' and content as 'process' ; as a means to do new things.

For me the key phrase in the 'draft' is to be found on the bottom of page 11. The draft sees students as , 'active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge'. Learners who 'reflect on their own learning, draw on their personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions'.

Now this is personalised learning - but, so far, more seen in rhetoric than reality - except for very young children before they reach formal schooling!.

There will be more to come on personalisation - you can count on it!

If you want to know more - click here


Anonymous said...

Would seem like common sense but, as you say, it would need a lot of rethinking by particularly teachers!

Bruce said...

The article I used to reference my 'blog' says that personalised learning is becoming more urgent with the widening of the achievement gap and ironically says that the inflexibility of the national curriculum has contributed to this growing difference.

It also suggests the use of 'learning conversations' so that students get into the habit of 'thinking about their own learning' . It says there are still to many students who spend to long listening to teachers or copying from a board.

Thankfully our draft curriculum in NZ is distancing itself from the recent false hope of achieving success through the defining and assessing of endless objectives!

No one in the Ministry will admit to being wrong about imposing the previous technocratic nightmare - it is aways someones elses error!

True personalisation of learning will require a dramatic shift for all involved!