“A Critical Review of Personalized Learning”: A summary of our AERA discussion

By vlearninglab|May 14, 2018|News|0 comments

The Virtual Learning Lab team hosted a session titled “A Critical Review of Personalized Learning” during the 2018 American Educational Research Association conference in New York City.

The interactive session, held April 13th, was hosted by a group of national experts in the field of personalized learning. These participants include: Dr. Danielle McNamara of Arizona State University, Dr. Jan Plass of New York University, Dr. Barbara Means of Digital Promise, Alfred Essa, vice president of McGraw-Hill Education, Cristina Heffernan, Co-founder of ASSISTments, Dr. Neil Heffernan of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and co-founder of ASSISTments, Dr. Phil Poekert of the University of Florida Lastinger Center, and Dr. Sidney D’Mello of University of Colorado Boulder.

Approximately 40 attendees joined in on the discussion, providing their insight alongside the panelists to begin conceptualizing a cohesive image of what personalized learning should look like. While there are a lot of different perceptions on what makes learning personalized, a framework needs to be provided to help determine whether a product or system is truly personalized or not.

Our panelists began their discussion on their individual definitions and experiences with personalized learning. The notion of what makes learning personalized was at the forefront of the discussion, with the panelists noting the lack of consistency in what is actually meant by the term“personalized”, and the necessity of having a stable definition for it.

As the two hour discussion continued on, panelists conferred about where the future of personalized learning would be. The question hanging in the air was in regards to the hype surrounding personalized learning. Was personalized learning the way of the future or had our expectations of what personalized learning could do become too great?

A key idea was formed that helped quell that fear. Personalized learning can invoke the image of a disassociation between the teacher and student, replacing the educator with a machine facilitator. Our panelists shifted this paradigm, instead focusing on the critical role that teachers play in personalized learning. Intelligent systems aren’t meant to replace teachers but instead supplement their learning strategies and classroom practices. Being able to utilize systems that provide meaningful and timely feedback has impactful effects on student achievement, allowing facilitators to work with the systems to get a better understanding of each individual student’s successes and struggles.

“Students now more than ever need to know their individual needs are addressed and understood,” Philip Poekert said. “Everything in their lives is now personalized- the shows they watch, the people they follow, the music they listen to- we need to do the same with education.”

The conference drew to a close with attendees providing their own insights to the panel, with panelists joining the attendees at their tables and sharing in key themes revolving around the discussion. The Virtual Learning Lab came away from the conference with new perspectives on what makes learning personalized and how to continue to improve the methodology that we have seen employed in our new personalized learning systems.

Keep up with future updates on our Virtual Learning projects through our website at Virtuallearninglab.org or through our Twitter page @VirtualLearnLab.

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