From Policy to Practice—Personalisation and the Higher Education Sector

Abstract In this chapter, we query whether personalised learning is about the person, the technology, or the state, and if the latter, how the person might then act and react. This chapter begins with a discussion of the policy terrain internationally and then provides a narrative of constructed accounts of the personalisation agenda in one university. Working through the narrative as co-authors of this chapter has helped us find some sense in the confusing array of discursive constructions of the terms personalisation and e-mediated instruction.

From Policy to Practice

In Chap. 1, the definitional terrain of personalised learning, often colocated with e-mediated instruction, was introduced. In this chapter, the definition is further explicated with a view to expose this colocation and to query whether or not personalised learning is about the person, the technology, or the state, and if the latter, how the person might then act and react. This chapter begins with a discussion of the policy terrain internationally. In Habermas’ (1972) terms, this is the technical terrain within which personalised learning is being talked into being. We choose the term “being talked into being” for three reasons. First, as actors within a policy sphere that is now resourced by ideas of personalisation and e-mediated instruction, we have access to written words and talk about this policy object that then create material effects. Second, politicians and policy actors tend to use narratives to create a particular policy story. Political stories are stories that are part of an array of ambiguous, partial, and contingent narratives that others can also tell. Needham (2011) argues in terms of her work that the personalisation agenda is a series of stories “that are being told about public services and the people who use and work in them, that together [constitute] a narrative of public service reform” (p. 4). Further, she argues that the policy game is about telling the most compelling stories. Third, personalisation as a theory or an extant body of knowledge is not yet fully formed and so individuals can look to see the possibilities and alternative stories that are also available. What seems clear to us at this point in time is that the

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017 B. Garrick et al., Theorising Personalised Education, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-2700-0_7

policy terrain of personalisation has been heavily influenced by the new social order, perhaps renewed social order of neoliberalism and globalisation. Neoliberalism and globalisation have provided the technical rules (Habermas 1972), at least initially, by which personalised learning can operate.

This chapter moves from a discussion of these rules or broad principles to their enactment, first through the near complete audit and standardisation agenda supported by the OECD and second through the reduced and narrowed role of the individual as a consequence, albeit within an environment that alleges to provide individual choice. It is within the practical application of the generalised technical rules of neoliberalism and globalisation, however, that transformation can occur. Through practice, we are able to see what others are saying about these rules in their own terms and are able to provide individuals with a voice to explain their understanding and to persuade others. For this last purpose, this chapter turns to a discussion of a research project that has been influenced by this agenda and that involves the enactment of policies of personalisation as an emancipatory mode of knowing based on refection and critique. This section of this chapter provides a narrative of the constructed accounts of the personalisation agenda in one university. Working through the narrative as co-authors of this chapter has helped us find some sense in the confusing array of discursive constructions of the terms personalisation and e-mediated instruction. We agree with Fischer (2003) that narratives “condense large amounts of factual information intermixed with the normative assumptions and value orientations that assign meaning to them” (p. 89). In short, narratives may be a little more honest in that they name a fact or describe a past in relation to a particular point of view. This chapter concludes with a summary of the main points raised in the discussion. As an opening move, we now provide a discussion of the broad policy terrain within which policies of personalisation and e-mediated instruction are located.

 
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