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Trending: Personalized Learning

What does 21st Century Learning or education innovation really mean? It’s a concept that often has assumed agreement — but it needs a lot of unpacking and discussion.

There seems to be a set of trends for what topics dominate “education innovation” over the course of the last three decades:

1990s: Increased rigor, college access for all

2000s: Tech, tech and more tech: 1:1 devices, making, coding, 3D printing, etc.

Now: Personalized Learning

What does personalized learning mean? Here’s a nice infographic published by EdWeek along with a good story to summarize the current thinking.

It’s an important piece of education innovation. But as the EdWeek story points out, many people say or think they are doing it when they are really missing the mark. For most, it’s a form of differentiation. But we can’t give different students a different set of worksheets and pat ourselves on the back thinking we are personalizing learning.

More importantly, personalized learning seems to be another tool that focuses on the “how” of school rather than the “what”. Sure, there is often a component of students setting their own goals — but that is usually constrained by the current goals of formal schooling. An example I’ve seen is: “I will learn to better cite my evidence this semester.” That’s not really revolutionary.

At Ed to Save the World, we think there should be both convergent goals of school and also divergent goals of school. There should be different learning pathways that lead students someplace very different. A major tenant of differentiation is that all students arrive at the same place, they just get there or express mastery of it in different ways. That seems to be a similar tenant of the current thinking of personalized learning.


These are the questions we’d like to add to the conversation:

While it’s incredibly important to communicate a growth mindset is it also possible to allow students to take very different paths depending on their interests? How do we do that in a way that doesn’t feel like tracking?

1 thought on “Trending: Personalized Learning”

  1. Reblogged this on On(der)wijs-Ontwerpen and commented:
    Momenteel ben ik betrokken bij twee grote herontwerp-trajecten in het mbo. De eerste is het ontwerpen van onderwijs in relatie tot de nieuwe mbo-kwalificatiedossiers. Het tweede betreft ‘scholing’ van de nieuwe medewerkers / jonge docenten. De blogpost over Personalized Learnig scherpt mijn denken aan en is voor iedereen die bezig is met (her)ontwerp een ‘must read’!

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