Journey to Excellence

Personalised learning - Dylan Wiliam

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Listen as Dylan Wiliam distinguishes between individualised and personalised learning. He stresses the importance of enabling students to find different ways into learning activities.


Personalised learning is not the same as individualised learning; individualised learning means having each student working autonomously and independently on their own work. Now, that’s not bad - it’s better than whole class teaching, but it's not as good as the learning you can get from collaborative learning.

Now, what I mean by personalised learning is learning which allows every different student a different way into the same learning, but a way of ensuring that all students are working towards the same goals. The danger with individualised learning is that it leads to ghettos, it leads to under-expectation, and it leads to some students being sidetracked into undemanding material because the teacher doesn’t think they can do it.

A good example is this: a traditional approach to finding the area of a trapezium, in a British school, would be to for the teacher to give one example and the kids then practice 20 on their own. In Japan, all the teacher will do is give the class one method of finding the area of a trapezium and then the class, working as pairs, individuals or groups, have to come up with as many different ways of finding the area of a trapezium that they can. And then they have to come to the front of the class and present their method and decide whether it’s different from, or the same as, somebody else’s method, but with some slight differences in the way they're done it. Now, what’s interesting about that is that it’s a whole-class activity but it’s personalised, because each student has to find their way into the task and some students can actually take it at a very, very advanced level - some of the methods are actually very, very difficult and involve the use of ratio. Other ones are very, very straightforward and just use dissection. So that’s a good example of personalised learning, where you are allowing different students different ways into the task, but you’re still focused on taking everybody to the same point.


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