Personalized Learning model for BC?- skeptical

Personalized Learning puts the learning at the centre and empowers teachers to provide each student with an education tailored to his or her specific learning needs, interests and aptitudes.” Without diminishing the importance of foundational skills, Personalized Learning both allows and requires students to take greater responsibility for their own learning as they progress. (BCELC)

Honestly people, … EMPOWERS TEACHERS TO PROVIDE EACH STUDENT WITH AN EDUCATION TAILORED…. are we going to buy this!?  With the classroom demographics, class size, learning levels, handicapped, limited resources, too much testing and paperwork already- there is no human being who can deliver this definition.

I hate to sound the cynic but I’d say that many students accept less responsibility for their learning today not more, largely because adults have not given them the chance.  Parents, churhes, clubs, and school systems all seem determined to spoil our kids. I say give them the chance to be adult learners by allow them to stumble once in awhile as children.  We don’t need to rush in everytime a toddler trips and skins his knee. Children will learn better when we set boundaries of responsibility.

There is no doubt assisting students to be more responsible and intrinsically motivated toward their learning is a good goal and can develop with shifts in teacher practices BUT the biggest shift needs to come from parents, administrators and society.  We expect our kids to get 2nd and 3rd chances to finish tasks yet expect their employers to fire them when they don’t show up for duties.  The inconsistency our young people receive is everywhere.  I see a totally different dynamic at the hockey rinks where it is all ‘suck it up and do what you are told.

Honestly, were the last 2 generations of Canadians so ill served by the public education they received?   The private school education was a small minority. Surely some of the credit for the amazing growth and the landmark achievements of Canada in the 20thC must be given to public education- an education largely delivered by one teacher, with little resources in a single classroom. We now find fault in school stats and specific teacher failures and tarnish the competencies of our entire profession, that continues to serve our youth well.  We are not Americans.  We follow a unique set of traditions and cultural forces here that US solutions do not hold efficacy.  The political and social climate in the US is so different from our own.  We do not have the relentless historical forces of libertarianism and puritanism that paradoxically create much of the American social strife-especially education.  The puritans want publically funded private Christian schooling while the libertines want nothing to do with education for the masses or God forbid teacher unions.  Why do we follow there lead like lemmings?   The trendy Personalized Learning model I read of is more ‘feel good’ than good education.

A colleague recently shared a posting about the BC government position on ‘personalized learning’.  It sounds so much like the American hyperbole on Fox I can barely look.

“…Personalized learning is a highly contested topic within the field of education. Read more.

…………………………………..

British Columbia Education Council

* Personalized Learning puts the learning at the centre and empowers teachers to provide each student with an education tailored to his or her specific learning needs, interests and aptitudes.
* Without diminishing the importance of foundational skills, personalized learning both allows and requires students to take greater responsibility for their own learning as they progress.
* Personalized Learning takes a structured and responsive approach, providing experiences that enable students and their parents to make choices around what, when and where to learn.
It strengthens the link between learning and teaching by actively engaging students and their parents as partners in learning.

(BCELC is headed by a Board of Directors representing the education partner organizations including the Ministries of Education and Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, the BC Association of School Business Officials, the BC School Superintendents Association, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the BC Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association, the Association of BC Deans of Education and the BC School Trustees Association.)   (repost , BestLibrary.org) …Read more here>

Another colleague suggested smoke and mirrors.  I’m afraid it seems so.  I’ve been reading about this trend for awhile now.  Differentiated Learning is another colour of the same cloak.  Being sensitive to learner needs does not make sound pedagogy alone.  Any good educator knows that there are other issues to be included, like curriculum, resource availability, evaluation rules, administration priorities, , time…etc.  She said, “that Socrates himself only taught a handful of self-selected students.”   Even master teachers cannot realistically or practically subscribe this ‘personalized’ model within 24hr days and still retain health and sanity.   Even naive parents don’t expect teachers to be monks and zealots!

This nostalgic trend is just more enabling students to be dependent and omnipotent! It does nothing to make them stronger independent learners.   In my view this is pure nonsense delivered by idealogues, out of touch bureaucrats and politicians who are just pandering to parents who should know better.  I’m a cynic I guess, but this smells like another way to offer more charter and privatization of public schools. Like Protestant churches which have been fragmenting into smaller and smaller identities to separate themselves from the herd, more private schools do not strengthen our community- it fragments it.

Read Diane Ravitch or watch her Jon Stewart interview for a version of education you seldom hear or read in the papers.  I’ve read much of her work and although our jurisdiction is quite different, the social-political sentiments are there.  Her premise is essentially the breakup of public education and the return to private schools and corporate training centers.   She defends teachers largely because she sees few others willing to defend the principle of a public education model that cares for the under-classed.

ike the Distant Education that is all the rage (but continue to have failure  rates that would cause a war if in our public school classrooms) Most DL courses barely crack 10% completion yet we continue to provide this model to students as ‘personalized’ course selection and second chance option.  Sending a student down a ‘personalized’ path that is almost a guarentee of failure is not sound education- it is lazy.  Simply routing kids into ‘programs’ does not educate a child.  Sound communication, caring teachers and direct teaching is the smart course.  I suspect if we’d teach more content reading K-12 many of our troubled and unsuccessful students would find more hope.  I fear Personalized Learning, is false hope if not backed by very reliable pedagogy and resources.  I do not argue with the intent behind personalizing( it’s apple pie- everyone wants it) but like too many education programs, if it is politically motivated and not educationally sound it is a unfair ruse.  As I have read about it PL seems more smoke and mirrors.

We don’t need the hyperbole and jargon of  ‘Personalized Learning’ . We only need leadership that supports public education for every Canadian and  backs it up by encouraging the hard work and professionalism of a well educated teach force.  They could start by giving BC educators enough respect to bargain their own collective agreement.

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