Leading Personalisation

Lukeš D, Donohue F, Mayhew-Smith P. Leading Personalisation. In: Collinson D, editor. Personalising Learner Voice. Vol 11. Lancaster: Centre for Excellence in Leadership; 2008. p. 7-23.

Executive Summary

This report presents the results of cooperation between three Further Education (FE) institutions (City College Norwich, Lewisham College, North Hertfordshire College) on a project aimed to elucidate the parameters of leadership in the introduction of a personalised learning agenda at a large educational institution in the FE sector. In particular, the project was interested in finding out:
  • What information is necessary for the effective leadership of personalisation?
  • What training and development is essential for the successful deployment of large-scale innovation, such as personalisation?
  • What models of learner voice and learner differentiation are available to leaders of a change towards the personalisation of educational provision?
  • What role can technology play in the introduction of personalisation?
Key findings from the project are:
  • Personalisation of learning can lead to successful learning outcomes and increase the satisfaction of both learners and educators; however, there is a certain amount of confusion among all involved as how to best define personalisation and also a resistance to change the pay-off of which is difficult to measure;
  • It is essential that in-depth, qualitative information on personalised learning activities is available to college leadership;
  • College leadership needs to lead by example; i.e. it is impossible to lead a personalisation agenda in a traditional centralised approach to management both because of middle-management and general staff expectations;
  • Personalised approach to the development of middle managers can be successful in the redefinition of institutional culture; the use of Personalised Leadership Plans (including psychometric testing, personal development activities, etc.) modelled on the portfolio approach to learning has proven especially productive; (see Appendix 2).
  • There is a frequent confusion between differentiation and personalisation; while personalisation of learning often coincides with differentiation, the two concepts are not identical, and in fact, their implementation can be quite contradictory; it is possible for differentiated instruction to be delivered in a centralised manner to a learner who functions as a passive recipient rather than an active participant in the shaping of his or her own path through the educational process;
  • Conflicts can arise between the traditional conception of learner voice through student representation and learner ownership of the learning process (incl. curriculum and assessment negotiation); with greater freedoms, personalisation also places greater responsibilities and time/work demands on students; student representation usually focuses on the effective delivery of college services (timetable, timely assignments, payments, etc.) rather than on shaping the face of education;
  • Technology can play a key role in personalisation but only provided it is introduced as part of an institutional culture that is already broadly receptive to the personalisation agenda;
  • Philosophy associated with Web2.0 and Open Source technologies seems particularly conducive to the ethos of personalisation. Social networks involving the establishment of mentoring relationships and blogging networks establishing environments of information and sharing and collaboration can serve as models of environments conducive to change.

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