I’ve blogged in the past about differentiation and personalisation, but they still remain the biggest things in teaching now. When we first heard about ‘personalised learning’ we all threw our hands up in the air in despair saying, ‘how in the world…?’ But a lot of people looked at personalised learning from the teachers’ point of view (we tend to do that don’t we) but to personalise something is to make it your own and what this really means is getting children to make the learning their own, to take charge and responsibility. Learning becomes personalised when children can get their hands on it, pull it to their chest and think ‘mine.’ It has never meant thirty different lessons, but it does mean thirty minds being hooked in.
Learning stops being personalised when any of this happens:
• pupils are confused about what they’re learning
• pupils know it already (it’s not learning then, just recalling)
• pupils don’t know how to check if they’ve made a success of learning something
• pupils don’t know how to learn, they have no road map, no steps to follow
• pupils don’t know what comes next or where the learning should lead
In essence, if pupils can’t make the learning their own, take charge of it, own it and manage it, it will remain somebody else’s learning, something that is done to them, imposed on them and detached from them. Pupils who are detached from their learning haven’t been given the means to make learning personal. Learning remains just about getting it right for someone else, for teacher or for test paper. Robust systems which enable and enhance self-assessment, self efficacy and ownership of learning make learning personal. Alongside this, differentiation gives this approach its wings, but it has to be ‘smart differentiation’ and not ‘pigeon hole’ differentiation. Learning can’t be personal if it’s too hard or too easy…then it’s not learning is it? It’s just having something to do that doesn’t mean anything, it soon becomes boring too. But if learning tasks are not too hard or too easy, and you’re able to take charge of these tasks too, then great things start to happen. Not only do you feel in control of your learning, but you’re taken somewhere with it.
So, there you go: self-assessment and clever differentiation that doesn’t limit anyone but gets everyone doing something worthwhile. If we teachers sort these areas out, if we’re given the time and space to try things, maybe muck up a little on the way (yes, without someone ticking a clipboard and tutting at us please) but really try these things, and make them our own, we might just get somewhere. We might just make it personal.