CPD Week discusses the latest professional thinking regarding the personalisation agenda and personalised learning, and how to encorporate this important issue into CPD

Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is.
William Glasser

The personalisation agenda is gradually shifting, as each sector of the education community, including teachers, pupils, parents, policy makers and governors, gets to grips with what the term truly means on the ground. This issue, we find out what the latest thinking is on the issue and how that might translate for the work of teachers. This theme will also be carried through to next issue, when we will be exploring practical suggestions for enhancing student voice through professional learning at your school.

Keeping personalisation in mind
By way of a starting point, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) publication ‘Personalised Learning – a practical guide’ (2008) defines personalisation as:

‘…taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child and young person’s learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils – and their parents – as partners in learning.’

As a theme in educational policymaking, personalisation is powerfully dominant – so much so that professional learning for personalisation might usefully become an overarching priority in our schools. In order to support practical next steps in personalisation, Becta commissioned educational organisation Futurelab to produce a useful document aimed at translating innovative ideas regarding personalisation into action. As a professional learning leader in your school, these ideas may also help:

  • The DCSF’s vision for schools in the 21st century is firmly based on the personalisation model, which is reliant on a skilled workforce, with top-quality leadership focused on each child as an individual. Central to this are high aspirations for all children, the effective identification of individual needs and the anchoring of the work of schools in their local communities so that they might more effectively contribute to community cohesion and regeneration. In this sense, personalisation is the overarching framework of reform, so it might be useful to consider its implications in planning for professional learning in your school. How highly does it feature, explicitly, in your planning for professional learning?
  • The DCSF has a number of personalisation targets. These rely on schools looking at high-quality teaching and learning; target setting and tracking; focused assessment; intervention; pupil grouping; the learning environment; curriculum organisation; the extended curriculum and supporting children’s wider needs. Most schools will be exploring all of these anyway, but does your school link each feature to your locality’s personalisation agenda?
  • There are a number of points of discussion for your school to consider in its approach to personalisation. Kick-starting a professional dialogue on how best to achieve personalisation on an ongoing basis is a useful way of supporting learning and dispelling fears and concerns. Keep it open, and personalisation will have a chance of success in your school. But if the dialogue isn’t happening, the chances are personalisation isn’t either. Aim to focus on personalisation in the wider political context; the perceived impact of personalisation on the lives and learning of children in your school; the practice of personalisation and how it might become sleeker and more effective.
  • The overall organisation of your school may be relevant. Despite the numerous tips available for combating pupil indiscipline, an overall truth applies to all schools that shows us that teaching and learning is all about relationships. Some organisational structures lend themselves to the creation of sound relationships for learning better than others do. The Futurelab document suggests exploring what human-scale education has to offer. This is about creating small learning communities within schools, with small teams of teachers responsible for the learning and wellbeing of a group of mixed-age students. The overall size of your organisation ceases to be as relevant when small learning communities are created.

Find out more…
The Futurelab handbook, Curriculum and teaching innovation: transforming classroom practice and personalisation can be downloaded free of charge here.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.