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What Is Meant By ‘Personalised Education’?

Personalised education as promoted by Personalised Education Now is derived from the philosophy of autonomous education. This centres on learner-managed learning, invitational learning institutions, the catalogue/natural versions of curriculum, invited rather than uninvited teaching, and assessment at the learner’s request. Its slogan is, ‘I did it my way – though often in co-operation with others’ and operates within a general democratically based learning landscape that has the slogan, ‘alternatives for everybody, all the time’.

We already have institutions that work to the autonomous philosophy within a democratic value system. A prime example is the public library. Others are nursery centres, some schools and colleges, museums, community-arts projects, and home-based education networks. They work to the principle of, ‘anybody, any age; any time, any place; any pathway, any pace’.

Such institutions are learner-friendly, non-ageist, convivial not coercive, and capable of operating as community learning centres which can provide courses, classes, workshops and experiences as requested by local learners.

These are part of a long, rich and successful but undervalued personalised learning heritage, from which we draw strength and which we celebrate. Our urgent task now is to share the benefits of personalised learning and to envision a Personalised Educational Landscape that really attends to the needs of all learners and to the greater good of society at large.

Personalised Education Now seeks to maintain ‘Edversity’ and the full range of learning contexts and methodologies compatible with Personalised Education, our latest understanding about the brain, and how we develop as learners and human beings throughout our lives.

Personalised Education operates within a framework of principles and values and results in learners whose outcomes are expressed in their character, personality, in the quality of life they lead, in the development and sustainability of our families, communities, and planet and in peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution. Performance indicators are measured as much in terms of their physical and mental health, in peaceful existence, freedom from crime, usefulness of contributions and work, levels of active citizenship etc as they are in the existing limitations of the assessment scores and paper accreditations.

What does this mean for the learner? In 1994 six young people and their mentor Brent Cameron from the Wondertree Foundation in Canada spoke powerfully for themselves … in a declaration of Learner’s Rights and Responsibilities.

  1. As a learner, I have the right to allow my own enthusiasm to guide my learning.
  2. As a learner, I have the right to choose and direct the nature and conditions of my learning experience. As a learner I am responsible for the results I create.
  3. As a learner, I have the right to perfect the skills to be a conscious, self-confident and resourceful individual.
  4. As a learner, I have the right to be held in respect. It is my responsibility to hold others in respect.
  5. As a learner, I have the right to a nurturing and supportive family and community. My family and community have the right and responsibility to be my primary resource.
  6. As a learner, I have the right and responsibility to enter into relationships based on mutual choice, collaborative effort, challenge and mutual gain.
  7. As a learner, I have the right to be exposed to a diverse array of ideas, experiences, environments and possibilities. This exposure is the responsibility of myself, my parents and my mentors.
  8. As a learner, I have the right to evaluate my learning according to my own sensibilities. I have the right to request and the responsibility to include the evaluations of my mentors.
  9. As a learner, I have the right to co-create decisions that concern me.
  10. As a learner, I have the right and responsibility to openly consider and respect the ideas of others, whether or not I accept these ideas.
  11. As a learner, I have the right to enter a learning organization which offers, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical support, and operates in an open and inclusive manner.
  12. As a learner, I have the right of equal access to resources, information and funding.

Copyright 1994 Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning. All Rights Reserved. www.wondertree.org

Another example is this charter:

The Learner’s Charter for a Personalised Learning Environment.

From the core group from the seminar series ‘Beyond the Blackboard: Digital Technologies and Learner Voice’. This gives a very useful insight into the learner’s perspective and is relevant for any personalised learning setting.

As a learner I expect:


To be considered as an individual with wide-reaching potential irrespective of age, gender, disability, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

To take joint responsibility for and be seen as an active agent in determining my own learning priorities.

To understand and critically engage with the choices open to me in the education process.

To understand the potential implications of these choices personally, socially and economically.

To develop the personal and social skills and attributes necessary to make these choices and to engage with the people and resources of the education process.

Skills and knowledge

To be supported to co-design my own curriculum and learning goals.

To draw upon and make connections between the expertise and competencies I develop across all areas of my life.

To develop my expertise and understanding in knowledge domains that are of personal significance to me.

To be supported to take risks and develop understanding in unfamiliar knowledge domains.

To have access to learning which will prepare me well as a member of the adult population.

Appropriate learning environments

To have access to different teaching and learning approaches and resources that meet my needs.

To have access to people who are able to extend and develop my understanding in my chosen areas.

To have access to learning environments and resources that enable me to develop my understanding and experience in authentic and appropriate contexts.


To use diverse assessment tools to enable me to reflect upon and develop my own learning at times and in sites appropriate for me and in ways which inform decisions about my future learning.

To have access to a diverse range of assessment mechanisms and media that are appropriate to the activity I am participating in.

To achieve recognition for learning irrespective of the context of my learning (in home, in school, in workplace, in community).

To achieve recognition for learning that enables me to progress within the wider community.

To participate in assessment activities that provide feedback to the education system and are used to improve the learning environments in which I learn.

The seminar series were held by Futurelab, Demos, Becta and Toshiba. A report Personalisation and Digital Technologies was authored by the Core Group Hannah Green (Demos) Keri Facer & Dr Tim Rudd (Futurelab) Prof Patrick Dillon (Exeter University) and Peter Humphreys (Personalised Education Now). Digital and hard copies of the report and the charter available free from http://www.futurelab.org.uk/research/personalisation.htm

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