Choice and Voice in Personalised Learning


Download article | By David Miliband | Published in Personalising Education, OECD/CERI, 2006


In this article, David Miliband, UK Schools Standards Minister in May 2004 at the time of the London conference, “Personalised Learning: the Future of Public Service Reform,” presents his vision and policy agenda for personalisation of learning. He places personalisation in the context of “three great challenges.” These are:

1. That of pursing excellence and equality simultaneously and aggressively;

2. How to combine flexibility in delivery with accountability for results; and

3. Meeting the demand that universal services should have a personal focus.

In meeting these challenges, new solutions are needed that depend neither exclusively on market solutions nor on the planned approach. He outlines the following five components of personalised learning to guide policy development:

1. It needs assessment for learning and the use of data and dialogue to identify every student’s learning needs.


2. It calls for the development of the competence and confidence of each learner through teaching and learning strategies which build on individual needs.


3. It requires curriculum choice which engages and respects students, while allowing for breadth of study, personal relevance, and clear paths through the system.


4. It demands an approach to school organisation and class organisation based around student progress. Workforce reform is a key factor, and the professionalism of teachers is best developed when they have a range of adults working with them to meet diverse student needs.


5. Personalised learning means the community, local institutions and social services supporting schools to drive forward progress in the classroom.


Miliband develops these elements with reference to concrete UK examples and the importance of the concepts of “choice” and “voice” as fundament to the personalisation agenda. Using Hirschman’s definitions, Miliband explains that “voice” is the attempt to change an institution from within, whereas “choice” or “exit” requires leaving a particular institution. He specifies that personalised learning requires the voices and choices of parents and students. This is exemplified in the efforts to develop a personalised offer for a particular group of students–those in the top 5-10% of the ability range who are the gifted and talented.


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