All posts by sproalee

Context specific

Personalised Learning can manifest itself in many different forms.  The way it manifests is entirely dependent on the requirements of the context and by which level the context is student centric.

In a teacher centric context, personalisation is difficult to realise, as the teacher is not willing to give away the control of the learning process to the students.

In a student centric context, the students are able to determine the learning path that they follow, and is supported by the students knowledge of their own achievement and future requirements for learning.


I cobbled these thoughts together after reading comments made on a blog post here about Rupert Murdoch describing education as not changing much over 50 years, in which he is reasonably correct.  The content may have changed slightly, but the method of delivery is the same.  How is that useful for a 21st Century Learner, or a 21st Century Teacher?

“Think four walls, door, tables and chairs, whiteboard/blackboard at the front with a teacher standing in front delivering content.  I think that’s what Murdoch meant.  And if you walk into any number of classrooms this very day, that is what you will see, unless you read this post on a Saturday or Sunday.
A modern classroom should provide flexibility, in spaces and furniture.  Students shouldn’t be constrained to the rows of tables facing the front as was the Industrial / Mechanical age model.  21st Century education is an opportunity for flexibility, personalisatoin of learning and development of competencies that will help students be self sufficient learners.
Personalised learning is targetted at specific student needs, based on formative assessment (assessment for learning) which identifies the learning needs.  Learning paths are developed to meet each students needs.  It does not need to be technology driven, but ICT is a key enabler.”

The video shows the setting in which I work with the flexible furniture that the students use.  While not everyone has access to such fine resources, everyone has the option to shift from teacher centric models of education to student centric education.

Competencies For Learning

At my school, we are developing a set of competencies that will assist our students to become capable 21st Century students that have a set of skills that will enable them to work effectively in a range of situations.  Our competencies are taken from the Partnership for 21st Century skills. (

The 4 C’s:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  •  Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking


In  Changing Education Paradigms,  Sir Ken Robinson says that by design, schools stifle the creativity of students, by boxing them into a ‘one size fits all’ method of education.  Out students come to school creative, but leave after being moulded to the be the same as many others.  We need to allow students to show their creativity and to think for themselves.  To help them to create innovative solutions to problems that they will face as they grow older and contribute to society.


As the world becomes smaller and globalisation takes hold, our students need to be able to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.  Effectively communicating in different situations and for different purposes will be vital for success in the 21st Century.


Working with others to achieve a goal will be necessary for success in the 21st Century.  The people our students work with may not be in the same office, or even the same building, but could be in another part of the world, working on the same project in a different time zone.  Forming relationships, and recognizing the strengths, weaknesses and abilities of other group members and capitalizing on those for the benefit of the group.

Critical Thinking

Students have an incredible amount of information available to them at the tips of their fingers through ‘net connected devices.  However, sometimes this information may not be accurate, and could easily be out of date by the time the students get to it.  Developing the ability in our students to reason, deduce, evaluate and reflect on the information that is available to them will enable them to make informed decisions about what it useful or not.

High Interest Writing and Writing Conventions

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.

Personalised Learning Network

personalised learningSo 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.

2011 – Only a few weeks in

student centered learningMaths 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.

Why personalised learning?

innovative educationOften 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.

In the beginning….

Well, perhaps not the beginning, but in the recent past; education has been a teacher centric, from the top down, content transfer system.  As we progress through the 21st Century, it is predicted that radical changes to pedagogical practice will be required to better equip our students for life and work in the 21st Century.

Throughout this blog I have enabled the use of comments to allow for discourse on the topics that I post on, to construct and synthesize a base of knowledge around personalised learning, improving student outcomes and education in the 21st Century. Comments and discussion are also facilitated through the Forums page

The birds? They are all the same birds, yet they are all different. No bird has the same expression or is in the same position. Quite like our students. Which reminds me of Theodore Sizer “No two are quite alike”