The increased trend for personalisation in education is about putting the learner at the heart of the system. This can mean identifying individual and group learning needs and tailoring services accordingly, by adapting information, teaching and support to these needs, opportunities and contexts.
Learners as co-producers
It can involve designing software that responds appropriately to the learner’s changing ability as well as providing teachers with timely information through formative assessment. But personalisation is not just about learners choosing between a range of pre-existing options (shallow personalisation) but more about them becoming ‘co-producers’ involved in the design of the actual shape of these options (deep personalisation) (Leadbeater 2004). The key features of personalisation can be summarised in two words: choice and voice (Miliband 2006).
Flexible approaches to learning
Personalisation also goes beyond the formal system to acknowledge what learners bring from the rich and diverse experience of ‘informal’ learning. Flexible approaches to learning require flexible approaches to assessment of both readiness and achievement, including ways to identify evidence in a range of formats, and to store evidence over a lifetime.
This would offer new opportunities to learners on the margins of the formal system, such as learners with families, low achieving students, people in employment and those who have retired. Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, and photo sharing are currently popular because they enable personalisation by learners and social networking that can support the e-portfolio learning processes. But in the main, institutions have been slow to capitalise on these possibilities.
Monitoring and evaluation
The Review Group’s report Vision 2020 set out hopes for the widespread use of e-portfolios as learning becomes more personalised and at a ‘stage not an age’. It anticipated that e-portfolios in the near future will allow tutors, pupils and parents to draw on information that a school holds about a pupil’s record and achievements. 2020 Vision is hoping to make widespread use of e-portfolios as learning becomes more personalised and at a ‘stage not an age’.
Personalisation involves the learner in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of their learning, and in turn requires development of explicit skills of reflection and analysis. An example can be seen from Edinburgh Medical School’s Vision 2000 in an extract from proceedings from a February 2008 conference organised by the Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine.