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Personalisation in education has been discussed in investigative and policy papers for about a decade. This concept of learning was used first in the United States and was later extended and advanced in the United Kingdom as it became entrenched in a wider perspective for the reform of public services(Hartley, 2007, Johnson, 2004). UK Government introduced 'customised personalised services' in 1997 for creating services that responded to the varied needs of individuals more directly instead of offering one standardised solutions for all. Later the principle of personalised service came into effect in the education sector and implemented at the secondary level (Judy Sebba, 2007, Skills, 2006).
Personalized Learning may be considered as an amalgamation of pedagogy, curriculum and learning support to meet the needs of individual learners facing the challenges of 21st century. It is often designed using a number of range of theories, philosophies of teaching and learning to provide students with chances to be able to access information and expertise, to contribute ideas and opinions, and to correspond with other learners and mentors(Hartley, 2007, Campbell et al., 2007). This method may use some net-based programs as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or Learning Management Systems (LMSes), discussion forums or chat communities; and could be devised as a "blended" approach, where contents will be available remotely as well as directly through ICT and classroom and lectures(Robinson and Sebba, 2009).
Definitions of personalising education have evolved over time and have gradually emerged at both national and global levels. Personalising education is increasingly becoming a key driver of education reform and has the following common themes(Hartley, 2007):
â€¢ Learners are placed at the centre
â€¢ ICT plays a very important role and is a key enabler
â€¢ It is a lifelong learning approach
â€¢ It works through community based collaboration
I will discuss this newer but now omnipresent model of providing education in UK using the four key points through critical literature review and compare this with other similar systems operated in New Zealand. The objective of this assignment is to draw a conclusion regarding the strengths, weaknesses as well as the utility of this concept in national and global perspective.
An overview of personalisation in education
Personalising education has the following common themes(Hall and Moseley, 2005, Clarke, 2003, Hargreaves, 2005, Hartley, 2007, Johnson, 2004, Robinson and Sebba, 2009).
Learners are central
Personalised education incorporates a highly-structured approach to engage learners to inform and empower assessed through meaningful tasks for the improved outcomes for all and a commitment to reduce the gap among achievements(Miliband, 2003).
Information and communications technology (ICT)
ICT enables each pupil with greater diversion and enhances interaction for providing a space for personalised, flexible learning beyond any limit, i.e. live locally whereas learn globally(Robinson and Sebba, 2009).
Personalising education is committed to lifelong learning and to the provision of flexible learning environments and a number of pathways for education to meet the needs of all learners(Hartley, 2007).
Communities of collaboration
Embracing the concept of personalising education through schools will promote a 'community of learning' approach and develop the perception of networks having strong acquaintances with the home, community, local institutions, business and services.
Johnson had presented advanced narratives of this concept to the National College for School Leadership:
'personalised learning': an education system where assessment, curriculum, teaching style, and out of hours provision are all designed to discover and nurture the unique talents of every single pupilâ€¦
â€¦the most effective teaching depends on really knowing the needs, strengths and weaknesses of individual pupilsâ€¦ (Johnson, 2004)
In 2003, David Miliband determined the definition to unequivocally acknowledge the need for intercession between teachers and students(Miliband, 2006):
Personalised learning involves work in classes and groups and does not imply students learning on their own. The core of personalized learning is to ensure that each student's needs are assessed, talents spotted and nurtured, interests spurred, difficulty to learning is removed and their potential fulfilled(Beach and Dovemark, 2009). The teaching, curriculum and class organisation of schools should be designed in such a way that as many pupils as possible can be reached for as much of the time as possible (Stillwaggon, 2008).
A Working Group on education reform was established in 2003 to analyze ways of innovation in educational offerings and recommended a number of educational reform including the introduction of 'core learning' and 'main learning'; changes to assessment strategies, improvement in vocational programs; superior recognition of qualifications, and creating opportunities for learners. The Tomlinson review has proposed the incorporation of diplomas so that leaners from all sections of the society can get an opportunity to discover and enjoy the use of their abilities and talents to the highest level possible, in addition to acquiring the basic capabilities needed to succeed in adult life (Reform, 2004).
The UK Government decided in 2004 in the "Five year strategy for children and learners" that it would imply reforms for substantial improvements in every stage of education and children's services from the early years of a child's life to lifelong learning and adult skills(Miliband, 2006).
Many academics and researchers subsequently put light on this agenda through their research and findings. For example, in 2004 Tom Bentley and Riel Miller presented personalisation in education as an evolving idea of customer service applied in the educational sector. They have made it evident that personalised learning is possible when a person can identify his needs and the service suppliers are capable of recognizing and at the same time responding in the most appropriate way to cater for the specific need of that person (Bentley and Miller, 2006).
Charles Leadbeater discussed a method that was steady with a more contemplative and engaged approach to education with an aim to promote personal development through self-realisation, self-motivation and self-enhancement leading to self development (Leadbeater, 2004).
In personalized learning context, the learner should be considered as an active, responsible, self-motivated and a co-designer of the strategy that determines how education should be delivered(Hartley, 2009, La Marca, 2007). Resources can be shared between schools through formation of networks and federations and each member school can be used as a gateway to the shared resources.
Further, Johnson in 2004, made the following remarks that highlights some of the complications between the interest of the individual in personalised learning and the requirements to nurture a shared sense of community while negotiating the nature of that community. "As this idea is more important as a political ....than an educational plan... . ....one which offers at best a partial understanding of the purposes of mass education in modern society and which speaks to a radically neo-liberal agenda" (Johnson, 2004).
In 2005 UK government published a white paper on school standards. This paper acknowledged personalised learning as a mode of education which is practiced and should be adopted where appropriate. The report stated that -
"Personalisation is not new. The best schools of UK should provide a tailored education which combines:
âˆ’ based on the need of the learner, extra small group or one-to-one tuition
âˆ’ All children will get opportunities to get additional support and tuition in areas they are interested
âˆ’ exciting whole-class teaching
âˆ’ grouping of students of similar ability and attainment level to help coordinated learning
âˆ’ a flexible and rich curriculum which can be easily accessed by every type of pupil and allows older people to mix academic and vocational learning
âˆ’ extensive use of information technology in the classroom as well as at home".
Maslow needs theory and its relation with personalized learning system
Abraham Maslow in his 'Hierarchy of Human Needs' proposed that all people have a set of basic needs: physiological, safety, belonging and esteem needs, and he constructed a hierarchy which suggested that 'D needs' (deficiency needs) must be met to able one to develop into their potential and actualize the self(Sirgy, 1986, Rowan, 1999). Self-actualization and transcendence can be addressed once the four deficiency needs have been met and then one makes the most of one's abilities. At this stage one can work towards fulfilling one's potential and becoming the best of one's capability.
Figure 1: Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (Source : http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/programs/maslow.png)
In accordance with it, UK Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in 2006 proposed five components of personalised learning, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: The five components of personalised learning (Image source : http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/83151)
The inner core in this figure focuses on conventional learning practices, but personalising the school experience has the key for the successful implementation(Clarke, 2003, Allen, 2002). The five components are:
Assessment for Learning
Effective teaching and learning
Curriculum entitlement and choice
Organising the school
Beyond the classroom
This is in line with the Maslow's theory. Interestingly, there is a significant relationship between Maslow's theory of needs and the New Zealand Curriculum's concept of Hauora - or wellbeing. In this model, the concept of well-being encompasses the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health. So we can compare these systems present in two countries(Crooks, 2002).
Comparison of the Personalised Learning vision, UK & NZ
Although both UK and New Zealand share some common vision towards personalized learning but there are significant differences in the approaches to achieve them. The comparison of the personalized learning vision of the two countries are summarized below -
Personalising Learning UK
Department for Children, Schools &
Personalising Learning NZ
Ministry of Education
Effective teaching & learning:
Emphasis to develop the competence and confidence of every learner and a focus on teachers' range of teaching skills
Providing professional development for teachers to uplift their skills and design programmes to meet the diverse needs of students
Assessment for Learning (AfL):
It implies the uses of evidence and feedback to detect the status of pupils, what they require to do furhter and how best to get accomplish this.
Assessment for Learning:
Having an in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of every student.
A flexible curriculum:
Learning-focused (rather than content-focused) to promote 'real' learning situations and matching the aims of the National Curriculum to the areas of their learning profile.
Teachers are given with more opportunities to apply their professional knowledge and sets to the direction of teaching in schools.
Beyond the classroom:
Building partnerships beyond the school is the key for both supporting learning in the classroom and enhancing pupil well-being.
Strong and engaged communities:
Strong partnerships between home and early childhood services and schools for informing parents who need to be involved in their child's learning.
Organising the school:
School leaders and teachers maintain high quality teaching and learning & ensure that pupil performance and pupil welfare
Professional leaders of early childhood services and schools provide leadership of learning, creating the conditions for personalising learning.
Highly supportive system:
The role of government and central agencies is not to run schools but to help them build the capacity to meet the needs of their students.
The underlying reasons for which we have to go a long way to implement true personalized education system are multifaceted and the education reforms are needed to successfully implement personalized education system in UK or any other developed country. Here I want to focus on few key points -
Resource Gap: Lack of resources may be the chief reason why personalisation has not advanced further(Beach and Dovemark, 2009). Education sector are classic maximisation needs; one can always find needs that have not been met and one can always argue for additional resources. Hence resources allocating authorities must always be static on its vigilance over the educational sector and keep a firm restraint on costs, lest it grows beyond all limits.
Institutionalised conservatism may be considered as an equally important reason for the discrepancy between theory and practice for the educational system(Campbell et al., 2007, Fielding, 2006). The operators of the system (teachers) are older than those who are using the system (students) make it immensely difficult to avoid conservatism.
Process related nostalgia to keep the educational system from reforming contributes as a third factor. The notion that the younger generation must go through a time tested process like the previous generations are creating resistance from different sections of the society every time the educational system is aimed to reform(Tharinger et al., 1996).
The inertia inbuilt in the present educational system is a vital reason for slow reform. But one should not overestimate the impacts of reforming the educational system on society.
The frequency of change in contemporary society (added up with lifelong learning concept) develops the notion that the status quo in educational system has no monopoly on imparting skills and knowledge, but it is still it has the role of the foundation for the lifelong learning. On the contrary it can be said that the notion of lifelong learning as such what is proposed in a personalisation of learning(Beach and Dovemark, 2009). The vast range of learning being conducted after the completion of formalised education in real life does not usually taught in formal education settings rather the subject matter and places are often chosen by the learner.
Future implications of Personalised Learning
The educational system is ever changing from the very existence. One attend to learning for future gain rather than immediate fulfillment. 'Non scholae, sed vitae discimus'. Since the future does not exist, so one has to draw a logical conclusion or may be a qualified, conscious guess. The ideas are applicable with even greater emphasis to shape up the educational system, because it is so much futuristic.
The elements may have a greater effect primarily on the attitude to people, motivation, the needs of society, and the technological possibilities.
Personalised learning and people
Conformity has a long history. In the present scenario the society is based on experience. That made experienced one 'smarter' than young one, because it takes time to gather experience. Hence the seniors (the teachers) had authority. The future should be the symbiosis among the stack holders of the system.
Personalised learning and motivation
Educational system should recognise that the ways for motivation have changed. The essential qualities of a modern educational system are supposed to impart to students without any form of threats rather at a reciprocated respectful way.
Personalised learning and society
The priorities of society will be decided by the development of a knowledge society - a society that will grow from both optimistic and pessimistic causes. The Knowledge Society is the outcome of the sum of our gathered knowledge continues to grow at an exceptional rate. Our future prospect lies upon the knowledge based society through the implementation of personalised learning(Wallace, 2008).
Personalised learning and technology
The growing significance of the attitude-shaping function is another paradigm of the insatiability of the educational sector. A more personalised educational system needs the innovation of ICT for efficiency increases and going towards right direction(Haldane and Wallace, 2009). The technology (Information technology) through the use of interactive systems, contribute to increased output in the education sector and thereby make feasible for more personalised educations(Robinson and Sebba, 2009).
The term 'Zeitgeist' and the educational system already have seen a considerable disagreement. We have supported individualism which elevates the exclusivity of each person and therefore a greater control over one's own life is promoted for each individual. But on the contrary, we have an educational system that still to a considerable extent has a fixed content and fixed timing. As it is implausible to return to a superseded perspective, it is seemed clear that is the educational system will have to adapt with personalised learning.
The growth towards a more personalised education will be held back by the questions about the insatiability of the educational system. It thus seems incredible that a more personalised education is possible without concurrently recovering the efficiency of the educational system. Since this will involve some investments, a high economic growth will give confidence a more personalised education.
A more personalised education is not without its limitations. It becomes more complicated to assess the individual student's gains from his personally designed styles of studies. When personalized concept in education sprouts, at the same time, concerns develops that a more irregular education system may undermine cohesiveness among the stakeholders of the society. The system which eases the students' pathway through learning in a meaningful way will therefore be much less divisive than one that also personalises the substances that is to be learnt. But this must be implemented through an thorough examination of the pre-existing conditions within the educational sector that shows the substantial progress already has been made regarding timing.
The fundamental challenge to educational systems in contemporary societies is that the rest of society, especially the labour market, will require that the system produces more and better skilled people. The continuing expansion within the global division of labour means that the countries must continue to nourish the Knowledge Society if they wish to keep up and augment their current standard of living. No one can compel the making of more and better qualified people, market has to persuade them. And a more personalised education will be smarter than the existing, more inflexible, educational systems. As personalised learning is still in its developing stages there is a little indication of the overall success it may eventually impart. Nevertheless, there is significant evidence that many of the mechanisms of personalised learning approaches have been successful in a number of contexts around the world.