Towards a pedagogy of personalisation: what can we learn from students?
The idea of personalised learning is of particular interest to educators, policy makers and parents concerned about the persistent problem of student disengagement from schooling especially in communities 'at disadvantage'. Escalating numbers of young people are 'dropping out' of school both literally and metaphorically because they no longer find it relevant to their lives. Put simply, these students do not fit the standardised curriculum or mechanical ways of 'doing' school. In response,
... . In response, there has been a plethora of alternative schools/programmes established to meet the interests of students deemed to be 'at risk', 'disengaged' or 'troublesome'. Whilst a great deal is already known about 'what works' in terms of engagement (relationships, relevance and rigour) schools have remained stubbornly resistant to major structural, cultural and pedagogical change. If we are serious about reengaging all students in learning, then it will require a fundamental shift in the way we design schools for learning. In this article, we wish to explore what this looks like from the point of view of two students attending a small school in the process of integrating the Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) design for schooling. BPEA is a small not-for-profit organisation committed to creating small schools based around the personal interests of each student. From the students' vantage point we seek to identify a number of organisational, pedagogical and relational conditions that appear to be making a difference to their lives. A central argument is that students are more likely to engage in learning when they have ownership and control over what, how and with whom they learn. When these conditions are brought into existence, we see evidence of enhanced relationships with peers, teachers, families, communities and other significant adults. Finally, we wish to argue that the provision of learning choices is a social justice issue because all students irrespective of their backgrounds have a right to a good education.