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Should learning be tailored to the needs of individuals or groups?

Shelf of Gradient Personalized vs Collective Learning

Digitalization is one of the biggest trends in education which - according to the education literature - will heavily impact the way teaching is conducted. And more often than not, digital tools emphasize individual and personalized learning approaches. This is a theme, which UNESCO observed, running through most of the literature, highlighting the need to cater to diversity through equally varied teaching methods and pedagogy which should already start in teacher training. The rationale behind this approach is to engage students by building on their interests and passions while also allowing for the development of their individual, and multi-faceted potentials.

When it comes to collective learning, however, some authors argue that learning in groups will still be required to nurture a sense of teamwork and collaboration, two key elements of today’s and possibly tomorrow’s work environments. Furthermore, some articles state that common learning cultivates the notion of education as collective good, enhancing the idea that society at large benefits from education. However, the literature strongly leans and focuses (intentionally or unintentionally) on modes of personalized learning.


Excerpts from the literature

“Personalization, studying at different paces, and a great variety of choices for different contexts by students form different walks of life in different biographical phases will demand a more personalized approach of academic education through HEI”


“The future is about personalizing educational experiences, building instruction from student passions and capacities, helping students to personalize their learning and assessment in ways that foster engagement and talents and it’s about encouraging students to be ingenious”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Educating Learners for Their Future, Not Our Past” written by Schleicher and published in 2018. Under heading ‘The Changing Face of a Successful School System’ the author asks how do we foster motivated, engaged learners who are prepared to conquer the unforeseen challenges of tomorrow, not to speak of those today?


“By 2025, schools will have implemented personalized learning plans that take into account individual needs, interests and preferences” 

“Learning and teaching processes will become more flexible in addressing and implementing individual needs and preferences” 

“Future strategies to fight early school leaving include: personalizing school education to better meet individual needs and interests” 

  • These quotes are extracted from a report titled “The Future of Learning 2025: Developing a vision for change” written by Redecker, Punie and published in 2013. This paper presents key findings from a foresight study on the "Future of Learning", which employed a series of structured stakeholder consultations, in different formats, involving experts, policy makers and teachers, to envisage how and what European citizens will learn in 2020-2030.


“Personalization will be applied to education as it is argued that its effectivity can also enhance the educational process. In reality if an educator within a classroom situation had to employ a methodology personalized precisely for every learner then the outcome would be much effective but not so easy to perform” 

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “AI Injected e-Learning: The future of online education” written by Montebello and published in 2018. Personalisation, user profiling and the use of machine learning techniques from the computer science arena fall under the umbrella of Artificial Intelligence, looking into the conceptual application of such techniques , as well as the educational undertones of doing so.


“Encouraging individual learners to develop their own talents and interests is important for keeping them motivated and improving their educational attainment and performance. Therefore, educational approaches should be tailored to their individual needs, learning styles and preferences, thus facilitating” 

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “The Future of Learning: European Teachers’ Visions” (a foresight consultation at the 2010 eTwinning Conference, Seville) written by Ala-Mutka, Redecker, Punie, Ferrari, Cachia, Centeno and published in 2010. The overall objective of the research is to contribute to the development of imaginative visions and scenarios of the future of learning in order to support priority setting for education, training and skilling policies, by consulting a range and variety of different experts.


“Small-scale communing practices and activities that will be needed in making practical sense of the concept of education as a common good can be realized, even in contexts where the odds are stacked against those attempting such communing activities” 

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Assuming the Future: Repurposing education in a volatile age” written by Sterling and published in 2017. According to this article, the instrumentalist view of the purpose of education manifested in recent decades through the influence of neoliberal ideology, and the set of assumptions that accompany this wave of change and reform, are critiqued from an ecological and humanistic viewpoint.


“The shifts in learning content and experiences are not mutually exclusive. Creating learning ecosystems that are personalized and self-paced; accessible and inclusive; problem-based and collaborative; and lifelong- and student-driven can help unlock, for example, the interpersonal and innovation skills needed for the future, much in the same way that global citizenship can help create learning that is more inclusive.” 

“There are multiple pathways by which personalized learning can be delivered. One approach is to reduce class sizes to enable teachers to provide more personalized feedback— yet this seems unrealistic given that massive gaps already exist in the teaching workforce.” 

“While there are many debates about the ethics of children’s use of technology, it is abundantly clear that personalization as a general concept is quickly becoming an expectation and a reality”


“Artificial intelligence in education typically focuses on identifying what a student does or doesn’t know, and then subsequently developing a personalized curricula for each student. Eg. Duolingo, the platform single-handedly challenges the notion of traditional learning, with a study showing that spending just 34 hours on the app equates to an entire university semester of language education.”

  • This quote is extracted from a technology-news article titled “How Technology is Shaping the Future of Education” written by Jones and published in 2020. The author claims that Educators are tapping into the digital revolution and adopting new technologies to help students reach their full potential.


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