“What Do You Mean by ‘Personalized Learning?’

If you work in the field of education, you’re probably familiar with the term “personalized learning.” It’s all the buzz right now. Schools across the United States are talking about personalization and putting various forms of personalized learning into practice to meet their students’ diverse needs. Although educators across the country are using the terms “personalization” and “personalized learning,” there is little consensus about what these words mean or what types of practices they describe. This brief post will consider just a few conceptions of personalized learning that have been put forth in the literature on this approach to education.   Continue reading

The Strengths and Limitations of Human Capital Theory in Educational Research and Policymaking


       Human capital theory (HCT) is one of the most commonly used economic frameworks in educational research and policymaking. In this short post, I briefly describe the HCT framework and explore its strengths and limitations in educational research and policymaking. Continue reading

Radical Constructivism

Central to the field of education is the concept of learning. Learning is something we all experience, and although individuals outside of the education field may not meditate on learning daily, philosophers and authors have long pondered the subject. From Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to Skinner’s Walden Two to Illich’s Deschooling Society, thinkers have proposed mechanisms for learning which imply and reflect larger sociological and ontological understandings. In my recent research around teacher learning and professional development, I have found it theoretically rich to utilize a radical constructivist framework. A few fellow students have mentioned working with constructivism, so I thought I would take this space to present a short statement on my use of the radical interpretation. Continue reading

Systems Approaches to School Change

School change is hard.  It doesn’t always go as planned.  In my last post (which you can read here), I made the case (with the help of Professor Tammy Kolbe) that this is true because education is a complex system.  The good news is that systems theorists have been working on the problem of change in complex systems for a few decades now.  In this second post I share a few big ideas from the literature on systems, schools, and change that I think can be immediately useful to education innovators.  Continue reading

Personalized Learning and Questions of Equity

Can an education system built around personalized learning produce more equitable outcomes than the current model of schooling? This question has been rattling in my head during the past few weeks as I continue to explore the movement toward personalization, which seems to be gaining at least some momentum in recent years with an increasing number of schools and even states adopting more personalized approaches to education. My current state of residence, Vermont, is fully enmeshed in the personalization movement. In 2013, the state passed Act 77, which aims to provide students in Vermont with multiple and flexible pathways to high school graduation through increased access to work-based and blended learning opportunities, dual enrollment, and early college. It also requires all students in grades 7-12 to have a personalized learning plan (PLP) by the 2018-19 school year. Paired with the state’s Education Quality Standards, which mandates that high schools develop proficiency-based rather than “seat time” graduation requirements by 2020, Act 77 aims to “move[s] Vermont’s public education system to a model based on personalization” (Vermont Agency of Education, n.d., p. 5). Continue reading

Decentralization of decision-making in international education systems

I have long been interested in education in the developing world and the decentralization of decision-making in these regions. My initial perspective was in favor of decentralized models for the purpose of supporting sustainable and locally relevant economic development. Further investigation into this topic through coursework and my personal research has pushed my thinking. In this post, I would like to define decentralization in this context and consider some of the issues that arise in programs of decentralization. Continue reading

The Complexity of School Change

We talk about the education system all the time.  When we do, our mental images can look like organizational flow charts representing school and district structures.  Students answer to teachers, who answer to administrators, who communicate with the central office, and on up the chain of command.  It‘s easy to imagine direct lines of communication, authority, and power. Continue reading