Why are we pursuing personalised learning? #Gonski2

Take a look at this graph that is based on maths teaching and maths performance, a hierarchical subject in which personalised learning has the best chance of success:

Why do the Gonski panel think that the best response to slipping down the international rankings is more personalised learning? Where did they get that from? Where’s the evidence?


22 thoughts on “Why are we pursuing personalised learning? #Gonski2

  1. The only reason the Netherlands is placed to the far left in this figure: the Dutch system itself is highly ‘differentiated’ after primary education.

    • SSP advocate in a sea of WL proponents says:

      Interesting point Greg, however over 70% of students in Singapore and Korea have private tutors. It’s huge business there as you know. If that’s not personalised learning, I don’t know what is.

      • Maybe. What I am interested in is the evidence to support the idea that the Gonski proposals on personalised learning will help us improve in these tests. Are you aware of any?

      • Tempe Laver says:

        I think you make a good point but I wonder how many students in Australia are also being tutored. I don’t think we have any kind of figure but I believe it would be a lot. They are not only tutored though companies like Kumon & Kip McGrath but by private tutors and even the parents themselves. It’s a burgeoning industry in most Western countries. It’s also unclear if most students are being tutored to extend and get ahead of the pack or because they are falling behind.

        Out of complete desperation I’ve resorted to maths tutoring for my kids(Kumon) because at the time my kids were in early primary school around 2006-2008 I was told that rote memorisation was bad (no times tables), that they needed conceptual understanding, not the right answer etc. I also help my kids at home and have bought computer based maths programs so they got the repetition they needed to become fluent. I know many, many parents do the same.

      • Mitch says:

        I don’t think anyone would argue that personalised learning would be effective. To me it is more of a question of cost-benefit assuming that school ratios are still 1 teacher:25 students. I can’t help but think that the effort is better spent on effective lessons, formative assessment and targeting the next step. You also lose the advantages of whole class instruction (discussion etc.).

      • “Private tuition” in South Korea appears to mean attending after-hours cram schools, rather than the one-on-one sessions we understand it to mean here. I’m not sure that actually amounts to “personalised learning” rather than simply additional time spent on practice and instruction.

      • Tara Houle says:

        the bigger question though lies in how and what kids are taught in school – in Singapore, Korea and many other high performing nations in Asia. Class sizes are much bigger than over here (and in Australia/NZ), however teachers insist all these kids have a very, very strong grasp of their primary arithmetic fundamentals before moving up to higher levels of schooling.

        My eldest is studying a semester abroad in Japan at the moment. She is in Secondary(high) school and will be graduating next year. She reports that there is a very healthy and respectful relationship between the teachers in the school and the students…a far cry from the exam and cram factory model that so many like to try and purport. There are many more kids in the classroom than what we have over here. Chalkboard/whiteboard is at the front of the class, along with the teacher, with students in rows. Students are constantly being asked to join in the discussion and demonstrate their understanding before moving on to the next level of the lesson. Expectations are high, textbooks exist for each subject – albeit in a very slimmed down version so that students can easily transport them home without inducing back pain. No computers exist unless they are in the Graphic Arts Class.

        And here’s the real kicker. No calculators. Not one. These kids get through their equations lickety split without hardly any time so they can focus their attention on the more meaningful problems at hand.

        Don’t believe what you read. There’s a reason why some nations are that much stronger than we are.. Because the know what works, and implement their methods effectively.

  2. Stewart Feather says:

    It would be an interesting exercise to alter the axes to something benign, non-threatening and suitably child-centred and ask what conclusions ought to be made or inferred and then to reveal the conceit.

  3. Richard Blatherwick says:

    …and following Dylan Wiliam’s recent comment on the comparison between countries, is there any value in using PISA scores to support any such conclusion? Tutors and the missing students from Shanghai will skew all those results.
    Maybe if someone came up with a way to control for the tutor effect, then we would have a way of performing a reliable comparison – it is prevalent in so many systems where so much depends on performance at 18 or thereabouts.

    • Perhaps. So what evidence *does* exist to support the Gonski panel’s view that an increased use of personalised learning will improve our performance on these international assessments?

      • Richard Blatherwick says:

        None that I’ve come across, unless their argument is that most of the jurisdictions that are most successful have widespread use of tutoring, which as many others have pointed out is the ultimate form of personalized learning.

    • Chester Draws says:


      I suspect many of us here have had Asian students in our classes. I have had many, from Japan, Taiwan, PRC and Korea. Invariably their algebra and arithmetic is superb. They are a joy to teach.

      Now that’s only anecdotal, of course, but I have never heard a teacher complain that Asian students don’t have the basics nailed.

      When repeated anecdote *exactly* matches PISA, it’s hard to believe PISA is severely flawed.

  4. The prevalence of individual tutoring in some jurisdictions makes this chart of limited significance in my view, but the main issue for me is simply workload. The sort of personalised learning envisaged in the report would entail a huge increase…and yet the malign impact of teacher workload is lamented elsewhere in the report!

  5. David Green says:

    I’m interested in possible cohort effect of group learning: personalised learning sounds good, but apart from the fringes, I’d think that cohort learning does more as people learn from each other’s questions, performance (encouragement and/or competition) and experience. Not sure, of course, but could be worth a study.

  6. Tempe Laver says:

    Mike, I agree. Of course one on one tailored teaching – as in a tutoring situation – would most likely have an impact. The problem is that we wont have one on one, but 1:25. How this will be done is very unclear except that it sounds impossible without outsourcing most work to computer programs. In the meantime the research does seem to support whole class teaching over differentiation due to the lack of time a teacher would have with each individual student. I’ve also seen anecdotal stuff out of the US were teachers said that differentiation was an impossible task. Greg is right to ask for the evidence to support its effectiveness. Without that we are blindly jumping into the unknown, aren’t we? And I can only imagine the extra load of teachers will be a disaster.

  7. Pingback: #Gonski2 pushes the idea of individual learning plans, but where is the evidence? – Filling the pail

  8. Robert says:

    I m always a bit wary of comparisons like this. For example, I am familiar with two school systems, that in the Netherlands, and that in the US. In the Netherlands, students are differentiated into skill levels (often completely seperate schools) after elementary school. This results in fairly homogeneous classes where not a lot of individual attention needs to take place, while in the US everyone goes to the same school and follows the same subjects. So the concept of “difficulty learning and/or advance faster” differs by an order of magnitude between the two cultures.

    So I suspect that the way the question on the x-axis is phrased is not measuring the amount of individual learning but instead indicates differences in school system and culture.

  9. Pingback: No more peace of the ignorant – Filling the pail

  10. otto says:

    The main difference lies in the fact that high scoring country’s are using a knowledge-based curriculum instead of a focus on generic skills. Which is a myth because generic skills such as -creative thinking- do not exist. They derive from knowledge. Read E.D. Hirsch -Why knowledge matters- It’s a mustread on the subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.