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.


Aspis, S. (2002). Self-advocacy: vested interests and misunderstandings. British Journal of Learning Disabilities 30: 3-7.
Campbell, R. J., W. Robinson, J. Neelands, R. Hewston & L. Mazzoli (2007). Personalised Learning: Ambiguities in Theory and Practice. British Journal of Educational Studies 55: 135-54.
Cochran-Smith, M. (2003). Learning and unlearning: the education of teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education 19: 5-28.
Douglas, D. (2004). Self-Advocacy: Encouraging Students to Become Partners in Differentiation. Roeper Review 26: 223-8.
Elliott, J. (2007). Educational Theory, Practical Philosophy and Action Research. Reflecting Where the Action Is: The selected works of John Elliott. Oxford and New York: Routledge. Ch. 6.
Green, H. & C. Hannon (2007). Their space: Education for a digital generation. London: DEMOS.
Grigoriadou, M., M. Grigoriadou, G. Tsaganou & T. Cavoura (2004). Dialogue-based personalized reflective learning. In Tsaganou, G. (ed.) Advanced Learning Technologies, 2004. Proceedings. IEEE International Conference on. 266-70.
Holloway, J. H. (2000). Preparing teachers for differentiated instruction. Educational Leadership 58: 82-3.
Hummel, H. (2004). Educational modelling language and learning design: new opportunities for instructional reusability and personalised learning. International Journal of Learning Technology 1: 111-26.
JISC (2005). In Their Own Words: Exploring the learner's perspective on e-learning. London: JISC.
JISC (2005). Innovative Practice with e-Learning. London: JISC.
Johnson, M. (2004). Personalised Learning: An Emperor's Outfit? : Institute for Public Policy Research.
Jones, C. & I. Duckett (2006). Personalised learning: Meeting individual learner needs. London: Learning and Skills Network, Department for Education and Skills.
Keefe, J. W. (2007). WHAT IS Personalization? Phi Delta Kappan 89: 217-23.
Leung, E. W. C. & L. Qing (2007). An Experimental Study of a Personalized Learning Environment Through Open-Source Software Tools. Communication Education 50: 331-7.
Lowry, R. (1982). The Evolution of Psychological Theory: A Critical History of Concepts and Presuppositions. New York: Aldine Transaction.
Lowry, R. (1982). The Evolution of Psychological Theory: A Critical History of Concepts and Presuppositions. New York: Aldine Transaction.
Miliband, D. (2004). Personalised learning: building a new relationship with schools. London: Department for Education and Skills.
Mylonas, P., P. Mylonas, P. Tzouveli & S. Kollias (2004). Towards a personalized e-learning scheme for teachers. In Tzouveli, P. (ed.) Advanced Learning Technologies, 2004. Proceedings. IEEE International Conference on. 560-4.
Nordlund, M. (2003). Differentiated Instruction: Meeting the Educational Needs of All Students in Your Classroom. Scarecrow Press.
Ravenscroft, A. (2007). Promoting thinking and conceptual change with digital dialogue games. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 23: 453-65.
Richardson, H. & J. Smith (2006). Student Democracy at City College Norwich. Citizenship News: 8-9.
Sampson, D. & C. Karagiannidis (2002). Personalised Learning: Educational, Technological and Standardisation Perspective. Interactive Educational Multimedia: 24-39.
Sampson, D., C. Karagiannidis, A. Schenone & F. Cardinali (2002). Knowledge-on-Demand in e-Learning and e-Working Settings. Educational Technology and Society 5: 107-12.
Sastry, T. & B. Bekhradnia (2007). The academic experience of students in English universities.
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.
Stenhouse, L. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann Educational.
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). Mapping a Route toward Differentiated Instruction. Educational Leadership 57: 12-6.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2000). Differentiated instruction: Can it work. The Education Digest 65: 25-31.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). Differentiated Instruction in the Regular Classroom: What Does It Mean? How Does It Look? Understanding Our Gifted 14: 3-6.
Waldeck, J. H. (2007). Answering the Question: Student Perceptions of Personalized Education and the Construct's Relationship to Learning Outcomes. Communication Education 56: 409-32.
Weick, K. E. & R. E. Quinn (1999). Organizational change and development. Annual Review of Psychology 50: 361-86.
West, E. M. (1998). Some Proposed Guidelines for Advocacy in the Classroom. PS: Political Science and Politics 31: 805-7.
Wong, C. K. (2004). Understanding Innovation Implementation and Organizational Change: Addressing the Theory Practice Gap. Academy of Management Conference.
Xu, D., H. Wang & M. Wang (2005). A conceptual model of personalized virtual learning environments. Expert Systems with Applications 29: 525-34.