Mrs A's Blog

My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

Research Project – The Start of the Journey

Reflection on My Masters Journey

My interest in online personalised learning, which is self-paced and differentiated, started when I was an eLearning Facilitator. At the time, my daughter was in Year 8 and became extremely ill. She spent the next few years in and out of hospitals and attended numerous medical appointments as we attempted to get a diagnosis. During this time, she tried to keep up to date with her schooling. This led me to think about my own classroom and how I catered to students’ needs. At the time, I was reading “The differentiated classroom” (Tomlinson, 2014) and started investigating ways I could achieve a self-paced personalised course for my economics students. My first attempts were manageable if I only had one academic class. This led me to enrol in my Master of Education with a specialisation in Online and Distributed Learning.

Each of the units I have enrolled in contributed to my thinking about how I could improve how students proceed through the course work and how to manage 25 different learning styles, needs, and points of learning while working a full-time teaching load. Knowing that students must complete the same assessment simultaneously is a sticking point for self-paced differentiated learning, as students should be able to show mastery when they are ready rather than when the assessment calendar indicates they should be ready. During the height of the Covid pandemic, I studied Online Pedagogy in Practice (EDU8114). As part of my studies, I choose to investigate my ideas on Online Personalised Learning. My early research brought up an initial issue that there are many definitions of what personalised learning is. All the research seemed to agree on that personalised learning was about the student. After that, some research suggested it was a process (Keefe, 2007), some suggested it was an approach or pedagogy (Johnson et al., 2012), and other research described it as a philosophy (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017). This challenged some of my earlier ideas, especially as The Horizon Reports (K-12 Edition) (Adams Becker et al., 2016) suggested that it might not be possible to implement personalised learning without overhauling the education system. This was due to the process being exceptionally labour intentive (Jacobs, 2016) or being pushed along by suppliers without an educational background wanting to promote their latest tools (Adams Becker et al., 2016). A report by UNESCO International Bureau of Education (2017) on personalised learning and my understanding of how learning management systems can be utilised in schools provided me with renewed belief that personalised learning is a possibility. Creating or implementing a framework that would make online personalised learning, which is self-paced and differentiated, a reality, would take time.

My current thinking about online personalised learning is that my research needs to investigate a concrete definition and possible frameworks that can work in a high school environment. From my initial research, there is limited empirical evidence of online personalised learning in high schools, and this is the area I want to investigate.

Initial Research

N Reference 3 Points Relevant to Research Topic
1 Adams Becker et al., 2016– Challenge to define and address
– Need for evidence-based frameworks
– Implications for policy, leadership or practice
2 Bernacki et al., 2021 – Definition to policy to implementation
– Adaptive learning technologies
– The challenge for personalised learning designers
3 Bingham, 2017 – Case Study
– Organisational change
– Implications for a model of personalised learning
4 Bishop et al., 2020 – Practices that characterise teaching in a personal learning environment
– Teacher Roles in personalised learning environments
– Role conflict
5 Childress & Benson, 2014 – Definition of personalised learning
– Teachers as curators
– Approaches to personalised learning
6 Consortium for School
Networking, 2022
– Defining personalisation
– Pandemic as a driver
– Tips and recommendations
7 Dagger et al., 2005 – Adaptive course construction methodology
– Addressing the personalised eLearning problem
– Course composition for personalised eLearning
8 Feldstein & Hill, 2016 – Personalised learning as a teaching practice
– External forces
– Steps for a successful strategy
9 Jacobs, 2016 – Case study of blended, personalised learning
– Self-paced learning
– Typical staff and student day
10 Johnson et al., 2012 – Defining personal learning environments
– Relevance for teaching, learning or creative inquiry
– Personal learning environments in practice
11 Keefe, 2007 – History of personalisation
– Personalisation programs
– Defining personalisation
12 Lee, 2014 – Levels of personalisation
– Essential features
– Design principles
13 Lin et al., 2019 – Effects of class size face to face
– Optimal class size for online self-paced courses at high school
– Effects of class size for specific subjects in online classes
14 Misko, 2000 – How information is learnt
– Effectiveness of self-paced learning techniques
– Model for implementing self-paced learning programs
15 Pane et al., 2017 – Case studies of personalised learning
– Obstacles of implementation
– Implications and policy recommendations
16 Shemshack et al., 2021 – Components of personalised learning models
– Tools and systems
– Data and Learning analytics
17 Thalmann, 2014 – Categorisation of learners
– Relationship between adaptation needs and learning materials
– Adaptive learning criteria in eLearning
18 Tomlinson, 2014 – Key principles of a differentiated classroom
– Instructional strategies that support differentiation
– Tools to guide planning
19 UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017– Conceptual framework
– Strategies for personalised learning
– Use of creativity, inquiry and challenge
20 West, 2012 – Defining personalised learning
– Studies on effectiveness
– Importance of teachers


Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSn horizon report: 2016 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Bernacki, M. L., Greene, M. J., & Lobczowski, N. G. (2021). A systematic review of research on personalized learning: Personalized by whom, to what, how, and for what purpose(s)? Educational Psychology Review, 33(4), 1675-1715.

Bingham, A. J. (2017). Personalized learning in high technology charter schools. Journal of Educational Change, 18(4), 521-549.

Bishop, P. A., Downes, J. M., Netcoh, S., Farber, K., DeMink-Carthew, J., Brown, T., & Mark, R. (2020). Teacher roles in personalized learning environments. The Elementary School Journal, 121(2), 311-336.

Childress, S., & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized learning for every student every day. The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 33-38.

Consortium for School Networking. (2022). Driving K-12 innovation: 2022 hurdles + accelerators. Consortium for School Networking. Retrieved April 5, 2022 from

Dagger, D., Wade, V., & Conlan, O. (2005) Personalisation for all: Making adaptive course composition easy. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 8(3), 9-25.

Feldstein, M., & Hill, P. (2016). Personalized learning: What it really is and why it really matters. Educause Review, 51(2).

Jacobs, J. (2016). High school of the future. Education Next, 16(3), 45-50.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). NMC horizon report: 2012 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Keefe, J. W. (2007). What is personalization? The Phi Delta Kappan, 89(3), 217-223.

Lee, D. (2014). How to personalize learning in K-12 schools: Five essential design features. Educational Technology, 54(3), 12-17.

Lin, C.-H., Kwon, J., & Zhang, Y. (2019). Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(2), 317-336.  

Misko, J. (2000). Getting to grips with self-paced learning. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Pane, J. F., Steiner, E. D., Baird, M. D., Hamilton, L. S., & Pane, J. D. (2017). Informing progress: Insights on personalized learning implementation and effects. RAND Corporation.

Shemshack, A., Kinshuk, & Spector, J. M. (2021). A comprehensive analysis of personalized learning components. Journal of Computers in Education, 8(4), 485-503.

Thalmann, S. (2014). Adaptation criteria for the personalised delivery of learning materials: A multi-stage empirical investigation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(1).  

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners (2nd ed.). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

UNESCO International Bureau of Education. (2017). Personalized learning (IBE/2017/OP/CD/04).

West, D. M. (2012). Personalized learning. In Digital schools: How technology can transform education (pp. 20-32). Brookings Institution Press.  

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