Personalized Learning Hot Topics Discussion at the World Forum

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This panel discussion was attended by a large audience on the Wednesday of the Global Forum. The discussion was focused around questions from the host, Scott Kinney and questions from the audience. Jim Wynn (Promethean), Jon Phillips (Dell), Helen Hosinett (Pearson) and Val Karaitiana (Community School Principal) each shared their answers to these questions with the audience.

Question 1 - What is personalized learning

Scott’s view was inspired by reading Carolyn Tomlinson book on differentiation in the classroom. This fundamentally altered Scott’s perception of teaching and learning. In Scott’s view the key thing is recognizing that every student has diverse needs.

John’s view is that we must recognize the central role of the student. Personalization means being responsive to the student as a learner so there are no prescriptive answers to the question. Change to personalization begins with the learning vision of the school. If a school has not engaged with the views of the students when formulating their vision then it will be difficult to respond to these views. The teacher’s role becomes even more essential as they move from being instructors to being mentors or guides, helping students to develop and follow their own learning journey. These strategies are then enriched by technology rather than being driven by it, it allows more creative and collaborative solutions for how to enrich the learning journey of each student.

Helen’s view is that we need to use authentic and detailed research methodologies so that we can base our decisions on measurable impact to people’s lives through learning. This requires personalized learning in order to ensure we meet the needs that emerge from such information. Agreed with Jon that the role of technology is to enrich, enable and enhance learning. Helen used the example of supermarkets who collect data on their customers and then use this very effectively to formulate profiles that they then use to improve their business. She suggested that schools were using and collecting data much less effectively at present.

Jim’s view is that we should concentrate on data that is collected “at the point of learning” which can then be fed back to the students and the teachers in real time. If the £ ¾ billion spent each year in summative testing was focused on such formative systems then much more use could be made of such data which will make personalized approaches more possible and focused to enable improvements in the ‘productivity of learning’. There is a tension sometimes between what parents want and what governments want to use data for. Jim raised a concern with the term ‘instruction’ preferring ‘education’ or teaching because teachers should be able to move away from the instruction mode and use a range from which a wider range of data can be (but currently isn’t) collected.

Val’s view is based on many years of experience in schools. Their current practice is for students to work together to develop projects and then write the assessment rubrics for these. The students decide on what evidence they need to provide in order to demonstrate a pass and then they collect that evidence. The high degree of student ownership allows them to develop the skills they need to personalize the content, approach and assessment. The schools serves the 5th lowest region in terms of disadvantage in Australia. Staff work in teams to track the progress of all students collectively so that rich data is collected on them all. Staff meet each Tuesday and discuss all of the learners in the cohort. All the teachers are responsible for all the students. This allows students to be flexibly grouped based on data from standardized assessment tasks based on their skills gaps. The school is engaged with research partners such as Prof. Patrick Griffin to help them establish what is working and how to scale it.

Question 2 – What does Personalised learning look like? **** Jon – Personal ownership is critical to effective personalized learning. Enquiry learning would certainly be a chief ingredient.

Jim – Some schools approximate to personalization by grouping students in broad bands of similar need within the classroom, others follow the same curriculum but at a different pace. Twickenham Academy in the UK is an example of where this happens. We should consider drawing parallels (stealing from) business processes. Instead of work flow perhaps technology allows for ‘class flow’ with the data acting as the glue that holds everything together. One headteacher doubled test scores simply by analyzing what the students don’t know and putting it right.

Helen – Pearsons are investing in research, particularly within those schools around the world that they manage. We need to know what actually works based on evidence and then see these case studies within the full data set of their context – if you don’t pull all these elements together then something falls over. Need to make it work on scale. It is great something works but unless you know why something works you can’t scale it.

Jon – Described the work of a Principal of a school in the US who made the main measure the resilience of the student. The curriculum is based on enquiry model and the resilience and independence means that students engage at their point of need as co-determined by the student. Jon is excited by the increasing emergence of student empowerment and cited a TED talk entitled “don’t be afraid to fail” – allowing students to choose their own project will engage them more and lead to greater development of underlying skills

Question 3 - from an educator in the audience from La Pas Bolivia – Last year their school started using the MAP test (measures of academic progress). How can we use these to personalize learning in the classroom?

Val – Make the data transparent to the students so that they can be involved in peer assessments and co-construct rubrics of how to assess student progress. A simple rule to remember is that you either “engage them or enrage them”

Jim – Summative data can hide a great deal of the detail. The PISA questions for example are used as summative outcomes rather than looking at the important detail within. Jim quoted Andreas Schleicher “the unit of change is the classroom the agent of change is the teacher “. We need small data to determine the missing detail from aggregated data. Professional Development is critical because otherwise the data is not acted on.

Helen – To make use of the data effectively we really also require systemic reform because we can only act on data we have collected so what we assess and what is meant by success is critical. We also need to ensure that when we have rich data that it follows the child as they pass from year to year. Otherwise teachers are forced to make their initial assessments based on limited snapshots.

Jon – just adding technology does not deliver change, you need to also change the underlying learning strategy. In terms of data we need to go with ‘tiny data’ “This Information Needed Yesterday” – needs to be in the hands of the learner at the right time. It is OK to have standards and end points but good schools don’t obsess about these. We require policy changes particularly in the field of assessment so that students can continually make use of tiny data. Schools need to grow their confidence with such approaches.

Jim – gave an example of statistical techniques for digging down into the data – big data without this ability will lose the majority of its value.

Val – Uses a method derived from the work of Richard Elmore in which lessons are filmed and then a group of teachers provide feedback before the lesson is delivered and filmed a second time. This is a powerful way of linking data to techniques that make use of it. Also sending staff to exemplary schools for ideas and inspiration

Question 4 from a school in London. – What examples can the panel give of schools that measure essential competencies and attitudes such as happiness?

Helen- gave examples of schools in India where wellness measures are taken. Each school has appointed a champion for student wellness checking diet etc. E.g. some of the students were not having breakfast so correcting this helped scores. Pearson are attempting to quantify some of these assessments using rubrics

Val – Gave some amazing examples from her own experience. Her school serves a community that receives numerous refugees. These students have often been traumatized or have never been to school so the fundamental vision of the school is to ensure that all students are happy, safe and curious. Scott asked how the school measures this. Val explained it is about knowing the students because if you know them as individuals you can measure happiness by looking into their eyes. If a child is not happy staff will take them by the hand and make use of the wide range of play specialists, camps, language specialists. These children are not being naughty when the run away they are scared and have never been taught how to play. Personalisation is essential if the school is to meet all of these needs and take children out of poverty. Every child can learn and every child is important.

Jon – Students voice is critical. In good schools students have a feeling that their voice is heard. Cant say it is student centric unless we have students involved in every level of their learning and leadership – doing their own badging, assessment, their own festivals and peer empowerment –the one thing we have in common is the student – culture of wellness comes on top of this

Jim – everyone happy was Jim’s priority for his school when he was a college principal. He made the point that it is the change in this measure over time that gives most information. He attempted to measure this through taking a range of indicators from attendance to engagement. He published bar charts of these measures for each group and saw that this alone also encouraged improvement. Now working in schools all over the world he gave the example of a school in Kenya where they were working with the families in order to meet the needs of the child. Happiness is relative, some students in these setting report that they are happy simply because they are at school.

Questions 5 – Do we know more about peas we buy than our students?

Helen – We may know more data but currently we are not using it and getting it to where it is needed

Jon – We have the data but not the analysis on if – learners really need access to their own data in forms that are useful for them. We need to be positive about the benefits of collecting data so that naysayers don’t close down on its collection. Legislation must weigh up risks with considerable benefits.

Question 6 – Ernesto from Chile Need highly sophisticated skills to analyze the data – often ministers are not able to analyse a bar chart – do we need to train teachers as data analysis.

  1. How much can we provide analysis of data for people?
  2. What is the role of professional development about it?

Val – needs lots of professional development to determine zone of proximal development. Need the quality of data but need discussion and notes to bring the richness.

Helen – We need top class visualization such as that provided for businesses by IBM. Professional development for ministers is needed too.

Jon – technology can play the role of analysis and so should be affordable. It is important to understand what is causal and what isn’t. The tools should enable such lines of enquiry – students and teachers should be able to have informal learning and sharing community. Why not develop the skills of students and utilize these skills as data scientists, it doesn’t need to be every teacher

Jim – quoted Professor Griffin – if they get 0%, or 100% you know nothing – 50% in a test should be ideal because tells you most about what they need to work on. We need tuning in on the main feature.

Thanks to all those who took part, please feel free to continue the discussion below.

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