Where is the research on personalized learning?

After a brief look at the literature on personalized learning, I'm amazed at how little actual research there is into what happens when a PL programme is implemented. The vast majority of the literature is about setting trends and conceptualizing PL rather than investigating the ins and outs of the processes involved. This point was also made by David Collins in his introduction to a CEL publication called Leadership and the Learner Voice.

What's more the studies that there have except for a handful of exceptions not appeared in a peer-reviewed context. This doesn't necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with them but it does raise the question as to the depth of the inquiry into the subject in general.

This whole situation is probably due to how new the subject is. Its current incarnation seems to have had its origins in some think tank work around 2003 and 2004 although some earlier references can be found going as far back as the 1970s. Of course, some of the 'traditional' approaches to alternative education have at their core the notion of personalized learning. Montessori schools are modelled in that way and with a bit of a stretch we could say that the true prophet of personalized instruction (however impracticable as a foundation for policy) was Rousseau.

What would proper research into PL look like? Given the rather disjointed conceptual underppinnins of the term, it is not clear. Qualitative research based around ethnography would have to come in at the start followed by some quantitative measures of impact and cost/benefit analyses. But the real problem is that so called 'deep personalization' could be so profoundly transformative of the educational system that any study of a small-scale personalization project could not predict the effects on an institution-wide deployment.

However, this is just an initial impression. I'm hoping to have a better overview as I go along.