Personalisation has emerged as a key concept in the UK government’s vision for public service sector reform, and facilitating personalisation in seen as crucial to the ongoing development of state provision. Charles Leadbeater has compellingly argued that meaningful personalisation implies not just a choice of services for citizens to decide between (which school or hospital to receive the services of) but the active participation of citizens in designing services; in determining what those services deliver, and how. While personalisation seems to designed to directly address and compensate for social inequalities, both choice and the more radical approach of participation raise serious questions about the extent to which personalisation excludes the already disadvantaged.
Anyone who has heard me talk recently will know that what personalisation means, how we define it, and how we recognise planning and provision which account for it, is something that I'm thinking a lot about right now. Personalisation is the broader context currently informing UK discussion around e-portfolios, Personal Learning Environments, as well as broader educational provision. As such, how we understand it has the potential to empower or exclude learners. Tomorrow I'll be posting AoC NILTA's position statement over at my work blog,
This approach is hardly radical and won't come as a big surprise to anyone working in the field. My starting point is Point 27 of the recently released UK FE White Paper which calls for “Increasing personalisation so that individual needs and circumstances are built into the design and delivery of education and training”. I'd argue that it is precisely this kind of misguided assurance - that the scope of individual needs and circumstances can be anticipated to the extent that they can be built in to provision and delivered to learners - that leads to exclusionary practice.
Josie Fraser, October 2006 (click for larger version)
Currently, when we look at approaches within education, we can see that the discussion is predominately focused on adaptive personalisation (Ferguson, Schmoller, Smith 2004) (for example registration, tracking, identity management) and customisation (Ferguson, Schmoller, Smith 2004) (choice between predetermined elements of provision). While I'm not dismissing the importance of both of these elements, at all, I would say that a discussion of personalisation that stops at customisation is not good enough. What we also have to factor in, if we are serious about supporting their learning and teaching experiences and recognising their differences, needs and preferences is the acknowledgment of and opportunity for dynamic personalisation to take it's place.
15 February 2007: AoC NILTA response to DfES Consultation Paper - Personalising Further Education: Developing a Vision
The AoC NILTA responce to Personalising Further Education: Developing a Vision was the last substantial consultation I worked on for NILTA. During my time as their ICT and e-learning development officer, personalisation - what it might mean and how it might look within formal education - was one of my major focuses.
1. Personalised learning underpins the programme of change outlined in the recent FE White Paper. This includes emphasis on effective assessment of initial learner needs, improving pastoral support, along with developing learner ‘voice and choice’ through participation and representation. The intention is to improve learner engagement, achievement and progression across the board and influence the shape of future provision.
Institutions would argue that significant aspects of personalised learning is already a reality for their learners: that they already have well developed systems in place and a well developed ethos that puts learners and their individual needs at the heart of what they do.
Personalising Further Education: Developing a Vision is a DfES sector-wide consultation which seeks to develop and take forward a shared understanding of personalisation within the FE system.
This response seeks to highlight the definition of personalisation outlined in the consultation document, particularly in the context of electronic environments and to review the proposed changes to current roles, activities and procedures.
2. AoC NILTA supports the assertion made in the document that personalising learning has an integral role in improving quality. Our vision is for the nationwide provision of learning appropriate to and accessible by every individual, that recognises individual learners’ circumstances, and supports their needs and aspirations. We believe that this cannot be achieved without strategic development of technological solutions in all aspects of an institution’s engagement with the learner, including: recruitment, enrolment, monitoring, support, tutoring, learning and teaching, advice and guidance, assessment and reporting and progression.
3. We regret the lack of emphasis on how ILT will support the aims outlined in the personalisation strategy. Although the use of technology is clearly understood to play a role in the systemic changes necessary to support widespread personalisation, we do not believe that the document recognises the extent to which the exploitation and application of ICT will be necessary to support personalisation. We would be keen to explore the range of ways technology, particularly collaborative and user content-creation tools can be used to support the personalisation agenda and the specific areas identified by the document. We would expect the personalisation agenda to rely on and further support the embedding of ICT and e-learning across all aspects of educational provision and facilitation.
4. We would refer to the recent report of the Gilbert Committee ‘2020 vision: Report of the Teaching and Learning 2020 Review Group’ which identifies ways in which technology might contribute to personalised learning. We believe that there are many benefits that are generic to learners and therefore consistent across sectors. We encourage the colleagues within the Department to work in partnership across the sectors in developing strategy.
5. We are committed to working with the Department and its partners in the delivery of this strategy to ensure that e-strategy is embedded into relevant delivery strategies and projects, and to ensure that the views and needs of the post-16 sector are recognised and accounted for. The deployment of technologies within the context of coherent and comprehensive e-strategy within institutions, and the associated organisational and cultural change are not optional. This is not recognized within the consultation document and we believe that this is a serious omission.
6. We are delighted that participation is seen as a key process of the facilitation of personalised learning. We fully agree with the importance given to this form of engagement – empowering and supporting learners to shape the services they receive, and recognising the important contribution learners can make to improve the quality of educational provision.
However, we are keen that participatory personalisation is not limited to consultation and evaluation, but that the contribution that user participation that empowers learners to take initiative and control is supported in order to realise the government’s vision for a transformed, innovative and world-leading sector.
7. We are in agreement that personalisation has the potential to be an effective strategy for engaging all learners, and could operate as a particularly effective mechanism for engaging vulnerable, disadvantaged and disengaged young people. We are keen to see all learners’ circumstances, needs and preferences adequately recognised and appropriately supported. We believe that personalisation is not simply a matter of determining what learners or groups of learners need – it requires the more complex approach of supporting people in their own exploration and articulation of their needs, both in collaboration with other learners and in their independent contribution to their own learning.
8. We welcome the intention to expand and to harmonise existing provision. More focused support, greater one-to-one time, staff development, introducing and establishing new systems – all of these require the provision of sufficient time and resource. We would expect to see a significant financial commitment to support the systemic extension of services proposed for the sector, particularly in terms of staff development and time.
9. We are surprised by the lack of reference to innovation within the framework. We would expect that the emerging practices associated with supporting personalisation would call for creative thinking and solutions. We would like to see provision for the encouragement, support and sharing of innovative responses to the facilitation of personalisation.
10. “…personalisation has a role in encouraging and engaging those not currently in learning by capturing the views of potential learners and creating learning opportunities in which they want to participate.” (p.8). While we support the proposed relationship between learner views and the opportunities presented to them, it is not clear how or to what degree this is being proposed. We are concerned that personalisation should not be misrecognised as a lever which can be applied in order to elicit a narrow band of response. We believe that if the vision of personalisation is realised – the re-shaping of service provision in line with learner need, ability and preference, in the context of employer and national skills needs – then in addition to the implications for service structure and delivery, evaluation and assessment will have to be significantly reviewed.
11. The document refers to the development of the ‘expert learner’. We support this as a necessary element of success in improving retention and achievement. We would wish to raise within this the need to consider the digital literacy that learners will need to develop to support their learning, utilising what are for some very well developed digital skills within their learning process.
However we recognize that while many young learners are already at an advanced stage of digital skills and will come into Further Education with a mindset / skill set that will naturally assume the use of e-skills as part of their learning process, other learners have not yet developed this level of digital knowledge and skills.
12. We are concerned that this is not recognised as part of the learner need and therefore as integral to any strategy for meeting learner needs. Teachers need to recognise that digital skills may not equate to digital literacy; learners may be confident but lack the critical skills to support their own learning and future careers. We would also remind colleagues within the Department that there needs to be parity in digital accessibility across the sector(s) and for the individual
13. We welcome the reference to improved assessment for learners. Personalising assessment, particularly with regard to assessing when ready rather than to a predetermined timetable and the ability to recognize and accommodate a range of evidence and ways of working, has the potential to greatly enhance motivation and achievement. We are disappointed that the role of e-assessment and e-portfolio is not explicitly recognized within this, as development in these areas will be crucial to the success of this element of the strategy.
14. If personalisation is to be truly meaningful to the individual we need to be actively engaging with e-assessment, e-portfolios, unique learner numbers and with the current and potential practices made possible by web 2.0 technologies.
15. We agree that tailoring the service to the learner must apply to the whole learner journey and not just parts of it. We encourage the strategy to consider the various elements of the learner journey – initial assessment, student representation, tutor/broker support, student evaluation, more flexible qualifications etc. holistically, ensuring that they are joined up and the danger of silo development is avoided, particularly with regard to the supporting systems and infrastructure.
16. We advise careful consideration needs to be taken regarding the question of access and control of the electronic environments and data contained within them at different stages in the learners journey. This is particularly pertinent for younger learners as their legal status changes from age 14 to 16 to 18+
17 We fully support the need for synergy and consistency across sectors, ensuring the learner experience is seamless at all stages of their learning journey. We would encourage further integration across sectors of work such as MIAP to ensure that the data and systems used to support learners are consistent and accessible. We would also encourage strategies to ensure investment and development across the sectors is equitable to ensure that the resources (particularly e-resources) are consistent across providers.
18. We are concerned by the lack of reference to the data and systems requirements that will need to be identified and developed to support the aspirations for improved student identification and support. We welcome the work of MIAP in developing the unique learner number (ULN). We would recommend a focus on data portability, data ownership and lifelong learning within these agendas.
19. In light of the above comments we stress the importance of strategic review of business processes within colleges and also for the careful planning of ICT infrastructure, taking account issues such as cost of ownership, the need to deliver seamless managed learning environments, simple data transfer and availability and minimizing risks of staff skill shortages. We believe that personalisation initiatives introduced in the absence of system-wide changes in business processes are likely to fail.
Annex A after the jump.
“In an educational setting, personalisation means working in partnership with the learner and employer - to tailor their learning experience and pathways, according to their needs and personal objectives – in a way which delivers success.” (p. 7)
We agree that personalisation is not just something that is ‘done to’
the learner – it is a description of a relationship between the
provider and the learner where the learner’s experience, needs,
preferences and opinions are respected and responded to – a realisation
of the rights as well as the responsibilities appropriate to each party.
AoC NILTA has produced a model of Personalisation in Electronic Environments which we would like to extend here in terms of a definition of personalised provision:
This refers to the pre-organised provision of a personalised experience. Learners may be able to access the same process from a different location, complete tasks at their own pace, or are presented with a range of tools and access determined by their username. While this offers a tailored experience to each learner, differentiation is based upon the curriculum, the category of learner or the learner as a member of an organisation, rather than as an individual. We can broadly categorise this as institutional provision and procedure.
The Managing Information Across Partners (MIAP) initiative provides a good example of this kind of personalisation – a range of learner information and requirements can be transferred between intuitions in order to provide continuous learner support.
This enables the learner to engage with institutional provision. An example of this within the terms of the document would be a learner choosing which modules to select to complete a course of study, or standing for a recognized student council role.
“The development of Specialised Diplomas as a modular qualification with young people taking different modules or qualifications in different institutions…” (p.17) is a clear example of customisation.
This refers to what we regard as learner-led personalisation: support and acknowledgement for the learner to create, write, collaborate and direct content and activity within the contexts of their own choosing. This is the institution engaging with the learner. There is little evidence of how this type of personalisation will be supported within the document, although the intention to equip learners with the skills to negotiate and design their own learning journeys is indicative of this kind of activity.