Personalised Educations?

Paul Romani

“Personalised Educations Now” – PEN

By Paul Romani
Oh God, not another acronym. What is it with theorists and acronyms?!
This is the term used by a website I came across: http://www.personalisededucationnow.org.uk/.
As someone who is actively trying to change education to make it more relevant the life of students and the country, I am always interested in gathering more useful ideas for achieving this.
However, when you start talking about ‘personalised’ educations, this concerns me. Are we talking about the same thing? To me, personalised means that in every lesson a teacher has to account for the specific needs of every child in the class. If there are 30 kids, that’s 30 individual needs. You can’t generalise and individual’s needs, can you?
That, for me, is unachievable and too much to ask of teachers.
The easiest way to cater to individual needs – without acronyms! – is use of the open-ended project method found in Education 3.0. As the name suggests, open-ended projects have no limits, they are pretty much determined by the students, and they require diverse skill sets, which challenges all students in one way or another. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no real ‘finish’ per se. It all stems down to the group’s collective abilities. The group can push individuals beyond their ordinary limits.
With student-centred projects, the teacher has much more in-class free time to observe each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Quite often student collaboration can provide enough ‘teaching’ for students to overcome their problems and to build confidence in their strengths. The teacher can then work with the remaining needs. Perhaps that need is to perceive when groups are performing below their potential, and need encouragement to go that extra step. Perhaps they need a bit of inspiration from a highly-educated teacher. Perhaps they need guidance with their group dynamics.
Whatever, student-centred projects that are open ended will cater to individual needs without putting undue pressure on teachers.
Having said that all that, many of the objectives are similar to those of Education 3.0. The only other issue I have (other than the acronym and the potential burden on teachers) is that there seems to be no goal to this form of learning. So we cater to individual needs. OK, so what? Projects that have real-life relevance give a point to new forms of education. That’s the whole point to Education 3.0 – the learning method is the same used in life and work, and therefore makes work a natural transition from education. PEN (argh!) has no clear relevance to life or work. It’s not clear how you would even implement such a theory. Therefore, good ideas remain just that… good ideas. But to come to fruition, ideas must serve a clear purpose, and be explicitly demonstrated in practice.