What is Personalised Learning?
Personalised Learning offers a means of transforming the learning experience of every child. It provides an education that is tailored to the needs, abilities, interests and aptitudes of every student. As such, it is a challenge for schools and teachers, but it also a real opportunity to make a positive impact on young people’s learning and future.
Learning can be personalised within the context of the Curriculum as prescribed by the System, with students being able to develop their learning path in consultation with the teacher or the facilitator of learning. Alternately it can provide a framework for students to pursue their interests through self directed study.
In whatever way that Personalised Learning manifests within a particular context there are several features that are consistent:
- Student Centred
- Self Regulation
- Formative Assessment
- Goal Setting
A Student Centred Learning environment places the focus on the student and their needs and builds the accountability around this, rather than the accountability of the teacher to covering a prescribed curriculum. Being student centred does not discount the requirement of the curriculum but implies greater flexibility in the path through the curriculum that is followed, they way the content is learnt, and they way that the knowledge is demonstrated or evidenced.
Students self regulating their learning requires them to manage the process of learning. To be an effective self regulator students need to know that they don’t know something in order to know it. They develop goal setting skills and become more aware of the steps that are required to learn a new skill or content, and how best to present their new knowledge or skill. Reflective thinking follows the learning process where students can analyse their actions and work and identify new learning paths to follow. To be successful self regulators, students also need to be motivated to learn.
When students are able to analyse their assessment data and take greater levels of ownership they are more aware of their skills and knowledge in the curriculum area of the assessment. Having a clear understanding of what they don’t know from their assessment allows the also to be able to set learning goals and develop learning pathways, because they know that they don’t know something.
Many formats are available to students for setting goals for long, mid and short term purposes. In a Personalised Learning setting, students will be setting many short term goals. The format that the goals are written in is dependent on the level of self regulatory ability the student has. The most suitable method for students setting goals regularly is to use a modified version of the S.M.A.R.T goal framework.
S – Specific. Be clear about what you want to achieve. These can be set from Learn To and Learn About statements that are derived from Content Descriptors of the relevant Domain of the Australian Curriculum.
A – Action. How will you learn it? What will you need to do to learn it? What are the steps you will need to follow? What resources will you need to access to help you learn? How will you show evidence of what you have learnt?
T – Time. How long will you give yourself to achieve this goal? Sometimes goals need to be extended beyond the original amount of time specified.
O – Outcome. Students examine what they have learnt, how they learnt it, and what their next steps on the learning path are going to be.
The ability to reflect on the process of learning and what was learnt is an important skill for a self regulator. This should be a simple recount of what they did, but a critical analysis. Reflection is included in the SATO goals framework as the Outcome step. Students can present evidence of learning with their reflection.
The Personal and Social Capability Domain of the Australian Curriculum contains detailed progression points to aid in the development of students as self regulators. Typically spread over a two year period they cover Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Social Management.
Teachers still have an accountability for teaching the content as prescribed in the Australian Curriculum and this can be achieved by monitoring student goals and providing learning opportunities for students. Learning opportunities can be comprised of student choice activities put in place by the teacher, student directed activities where the student designs the learning to reach a desired outcome and explicit teaching in small group and whole group workshop sessions.
Particular content can be delivered to students through the management of software services such as Reading Eggs, LiteracyPlanet and Mathletics. Tasks can be assigned that match student goals and students can independently choose tasks that contribute to them reaching their goal.
Using Technology to Personalise Learning
Personalised learning does not rely on the use of technology, but it does expand the opportunities in both delivering of content and the construction and communication of outcomes and evidence of learning.
Content delivery is achieved by making specific playlists, or collections of resources available to students. These can be custom created by teachers and placed in accessible locations to students, or they can be created within a Learning Management System where students can access.
Students are not limited to exclusively using technology to create evidence of their learning, but by harnessing technology, they are able to publish their work to an authentic and wider audience than may be possible by using non digital methods. A variety of web2.0 applications allow students to do this.
Student portfolios provide a platform for demonstrating their understanding and achievements. Where students are working at a wide range of levels and on varied tasks, portfolios are important for tracking student engagement with learning. The creation and curating of these portfolios is again not limited to being digital, but the use of digital methods opens up new possibilities and opportunities.
Reflection and Goal Setting are important skills for students to have to be able to self regulate, take responsibility and and have independence in their learning. It is equally important that their teachers are able to model the process of reflection, identifying learning needs, setting goals and working to achieve their goals.
Engaging in reflection is an essential part of learning. It allows the learner to analyse the process of learning, and the product of their learning. Additionally, it allows the learner to identify areas where they may need to make further improvements for continual learning. Reflective thinking needs to be taught, and planned for in a student’s course of study. Being to able to reflect and analyse their learning is an important requisite for critical thinking.
Reflection on learning requires honesty from the learner and a commitment to continual improvement. Reflection can be based on feedback that has been provided, and is most effective when it is written and recorded in a permanent location that can be referred back to.
Effective learners are those that are able to use the knowledge generated by reflection and metacognitive process to self regulate their learning, have awareness of their thinking and are able to move towards new and reformulated goals.
A simple framework for reflection could be:
Description of what happened.
Feelings associated with the learning.
Evaluation of the learning, was it positive or negative.
Analysis and making sense of the learning.
Conclusions and what else could I have done.
Action Plan and what the learner can do next.
Goal setting provides students with further opportunities to self regulate their learning. To be able to set relevant and realistic goals, the learner first needs to be able to reflect, and in the Socratic way, they have to know that they don’t know, in order for them to know. This can be applied in a cyclical fashion, to create a continual process of learning and improvement. Goal setting provides opportunities for students to self evaluate, discuss their learning aims, and to formulate strategies for learning.
SMART is a well known framework for goal setting. Modifying the framework to make it simpler for students has been highly successful.
Specific – What do you want to achieve?
Action – How are you going to do it?
Time – How long will it take you?
Outcome – How are you going to show what you have learnt?
The following are some content descriptors from AUSvels Level 2, and some links for online games to assist students to develop skills against the content descriptors.
Investigate number sequences, initially those increasing and decreasing by twos, threes, fives and ten from any starting point, then moving to other sequences. (ACMNA026)
Recognise and represent multiplication as repeated addition, groups and arrays (ACMNA031)
Hit the Button
Understand how to use digraphs, long vowels, blends and silent letters to spell words, and use morphemes and syllabification to break up simple words and use visual memory to write irregular words (ACELA1471)
Understand how texts are made cohesive through resources, for example word associations, synonyms, and antonyms (ACELA1464)
Synonyms and Antonyms
At the beginning of second term, personalisation of writing was implemented. This was done using two methods. Ability grouping for writing conventions, and interest based for writing genres.
Writing conventions groups were created in the same way as maths workshop groups, using Adaptive On Demand Testing. As with maths, a large spread was identified across the 100 students. This has allowed targeted teaching to the specific needs of the students. This is Personalisation For the Learner.
Student input was relied on heavily when determining the genres studied in the High Interest groups. This was achieved using a Google Survey with a range of questions relating to the different genres of writing. The topics have rotated on a four to five week basis with students being able to nominate from four different workshops each time. This could best be described as Personalisation By the Learner.
So one of the tasks I have for the Masters in School Leadership (MSL) this semester is to initiate a network of colleagues around my Action Research Project. The research question is currently defined as “Does personalised learning have a positive effect on student learning outcomes?” I have toyed with various ideas for the creation of my network, and I am currently leaning towards an online presence for the network. As personalised learning and 21st Century Learning are so complementary, it makes sense to me to develop it this way.
Could I use Twitter? Quite easily. It’s asynchronous. The communication happens instantly. The network can grow exponentially, all it takes is a hash tag. And a twitter account. The network is limited to local colleagues, it can draw upon the expertise, knowledge and skills of educators at all levels from across the globe.
Blog based? Users can contribute to a blog post, leave comments etc. Resources can be shared. Ideas and words remain available for a longer period of time. Members don’t need to be registered with twitter. However, it’s harder to get the word out for people.
Perhaps a combination of the two?
Some other technologies that could be incorporated: Elluminate for real time video conferencing. Google Docs.
I shall think further on the implications for the network and come to a decision soon.
Maths workshops – So far this year we’ve been using Maths workshops for targeted, needs specific teaching in Maths Strands (Number, Space, MCD). We just over 100 Year 6 kids there is quite a spread of abilities, from working at VELS level 2, which equates to around two years below the expected level, to level 5.5, which is about 2 years ahead of the expected level. In one classroom with that big a spread, it’s difficult to give specific needs based teaching to each child. Workshops allow us to put like ability kids together.
Inquiry – Inquiry has also become a big push throughout our school as well. The role of the teacher has changed from the content deliverer to one of facilitator of learning opportunities for our students. Using inquiry in Science and Humanities alongside explicit teaching, students are able to follow topics that are of high interest to them. Hand in hand with high interest goes engagement.
As we progress through the year, there’ll be more things that we do differently to what we have done in the past, and I’ll post information about each of those things too.
Often when teachers hear the term ‘personalised learning’ and believe it to be a completely open ended system of teaching and learning, but personalised learning still holds explicit teaching at it’s core. Explicit teaching that is tightly focussed and targeted to specific student needs. In the majority of settings, personalised learning is already being used in various forms, Individual Learning Plans, ability grouping and differentiation. But these methods are teacher centric, true personalised learning is a student centric pedagogy. One where students decide on the path of their learning in collaboration with teachers by setting short term goals, and developing a path to succeed.
However, personalised learning doesn’t just happen oven night. It is a massive pedagogical shift. Teachers shift their role to that of a facilitator of learning, rather than a supplier of curriculum content. Students shift their role from passive knowledge sponge to be a social constructor of knowledge. Students need to take greater responsibility for their learning and to develop the competencies of flexibility and adaptability for their continued success in our rapidly changing and shrinking world.
This rapid social change and the sheer volume of new knowledge being created daily are two of the catalysts for the required shift in curriculum. The content we expect the students to acquire by the time they graduate school is outdated by then, and is superseded by the rapidly evolving new knowledge. The jobs they will work in, haven’t been invented yet. The skills of regurgitating second hand knowledge and answering questions on an exam to prove their subject knowledge are becoming rapidly obsolete. Those are Industrial Age skills. Sure they are still relevant in the Post Industrial Age to an extent, but they are not the ways in which our students learn and work to the highest possible range of their abilities.