I heard a story recently about an English teacher using the class’s interest in sport to motivate and engage them in their lessons. The parent relaying this was so impressed by the ‘personalisation’ of learning. Many parents think that differentiating instruction for the class is the same as personalising learning for the child. In fact, very few schools I know of are personalising learning only because the current model prevents them from doing it. We will turn this on its head when we start from the child, not the class.
Personalised learning allows the learner to contribute to their own learning: the design of it, the responsibility for it and the identification of learning goals. Every child at school is entitled to know what they are going to learn, how they are going to learn it, how they will know they have learned it and the teacher knows where the child is at before they start the teaching. All good teachers know and understand this but our current structure dictates the learning.
I understand teachers feel immense pressure to deliver in an age of increased accountability and transparency. It seems also that school systems whose role it is to support schools and leaders are drowning under the weight of compliance. Additionally, governments look to other nations in making the next bold educational policy statement.
I have no doubt teachers are working hard but I believe they are working hard at the wrong things. This is not about replicating a new version of the old system. If we are seriously committed to personalising learning for every child, we need to disentangle ourselves from the current model. This includes the definition of teacher’s work, which forms the basis of industrial agreements. No industrial agreement can cover the complexity of teaching in today’s world nor the flexibility required to deliver challenging and relevant learning. Each of us has to be open to asking the hard questions.
To quote Sheninger and Murray in Learning Transformed (p 55),
Making student learning personal and authentic is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. It’s the exact type of learning that students experience outside of school when consuming and creating content. If we want to reengage students and reignite their passion for learning, we have no choice but to give them various opportunities to choose what they are learning, how they will learn, and ultimately, how they can show mastery of their learning.