Part 3: Personalised Planning

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part series, I explored the position and purpose of personalised planning, and touched on the importance of contribution and mindset. As a result of this exploration, it was established that:

  • Personalised Planning should be manifested as a default level of practice afforded to all students through quality, differentiated teaching and learning
  • Recording of Personalised Planning as a specific plan or product should occur for students who require access to ongoing, personalised adjustments and modifications
  • Personalised Planning should be framed from an inclusive purpose and perspective, and should therefore position the student and their parents as valued and empowered contributors
  • The plan should be used to drive an inquiry process that involves regular review and adaptation to ensure that it is responsive, effective and realised in practice.

In order for the obligations of Personalised Planning as a product to be realised with fidelity, it is vital to consider the design and execution of the process. When working in this space, I like to utilise the insights from The Golden Circle and from Design Thinking. Although both of these stem from the sales and business driven world of corporations and companies, their application to the concept of schooling is not completely foreign. It could be considered that educational experiences and outcomes are a product, and that the students themselves are a consumer.

The Golden Circle:

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Typically, we communicate from the what to the why. We do this because it is easier to go from the tangible to the intangible. We can articulate what it is we do, and sometimes how we do it, but we can rarely identify the why that drives us.

When this default, outside-in approach to working is applied to Personalised Planning, the result is an end product with limitation. It becomes a plan that overtly focuses on and identifies the what – the actions, deficits and impacts of the student, and the resulting consequential, ad hoc responses. It is therefore not surprising that the what is rarely matched with purpose and understanding, and rarely ends up being successfully responsive and effective. This is because a knowing/doing gap is created. We establish what we think we want, but we fail to be explicit on how it is going to be achieved or why it is even important. The result is ambiguity and assumption without drive and accountability.

When we flip our thinking and come at Personalised Planning from the inside-out, we take the time to capture the why, and more importantly, we take the time to believe in it. That is, we start by positioning the student first and foremost as a student. We value them as an autonomous, worthy contributor in their education. We come at decisions and actions with their vision and rights at the heart, and with an unrelenting responsibility to providing a high-quality experience and product that matches those aspirations. It takes us out of the reactive and into the proactive.

The moral imperative and acute human perspective that comes from unpacking the why allows us to then shape the how of equity realisation, before finally communicating it as the what.

Design Thinking:

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As humans, we naturally develop patterns of thinking that are modelled on repetitive activities and the knowledge and experiences we commonly access. This allows us to quickly analyse and comfortably respond in familiar situations, but it also has the potential to prevent us from easily accessing and developing new perspectives, understanding, and ways of working.

Personalised Planning is one such pattern that has become a subconscious, automatized process in schools. It centres on patterns and ways of working that are typically derived from the status quo. The outcome is a standardised, inflexible process and product that often negates the core of its purpose – the student, and is instead focused on compliance over vision.

Design Thinking is a methodology that centres on a solutions-based approach to identifying and responding to limitations. It is an interactive process that seeks to understand the consumer, challenge associated assumptions, and reframe problems in human-centric ways in order to prompt alternate strategies and solutions.

Design Thinking lends itself seamlessly to Personalised Planning as it is extremely useful in empathetically identifying and defining problems, understanding the human needs that are involved, and generating many ideas and solutions through broad collaboration and feedback. It has inbuilt mechanisms to trial and review solutions, and adapt responses from a data driven perspective that is regularly and consistently analysed against the needs of the consumer being met.

In practical application, when the conceptual methods of The Golden Circle and Design Thinking are used in combination with inclusive principles and a human rights perspective, the result is a planning process that takes form via the following blueprint:

    1. Student voice is captured: their vision, strengths, experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, contribution… is captured and used to drive decisions
    2. Identification of relevant impacts: collaboratively identifying functional impacts that occur in the school environment as evidenced through data and experience
    3. Identification of barriers: collaboratively identifying the environmental, organisational and pedagogical aspects that impact on equitable access and participation
    4. Whole-school responses: considering what systems and process can be implemented at a whole-school level to respond to and minimise impact
    5. Whole-class responses: considering what whole-class systems and process can be implemented in combination with Universal Design for Learning to respond to and minimise impact
    6. Individualised adjustments and modifications: collaboratively discussing evidence-based options to support any remaining impacts that are not adequately addressed via whole-school and whole-class/UDL responses
    7. Implementation: responses are recorded and communicated, enacted with fidelity, and on-going data is collected to inform review
    8. Review: collaboratively review effectiveness of strategies, gain feedback, and amend responses and implementation as necessary

Rethinking traditional ways of Personalised Planning provides the potential to produce and deliver an educational experience and product that is highly responsive to the consumer. It opens up a collaborative line of inquiry that is fluid and ever evolving, and places the prime responsibility for adaptability and change to be placed on the school system, and not on the student. Ultimately it becomes about acknowledging the student and planning them in from the point of design, not planning them out via separate and different after the fact.