Enacting personalisation
: A qualitative study of pupils’ and teachers’ experiences of personalised learning

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Education


Personalised learning is currently considered by policy makers, parents and, in some cases, by teachers themselves, as an effective approach to ensure successful progress for all pupils.
In this thesis, the concept of personalised learning is explored through listening to the voices of learners and teachers as they share their experiences of schooling that at least in part purports to be shaped around the individual pupil. The impact on pedagogy, pupil-teacher interactions and the self-images of learners is explored, as is the tension between teachers’ and ‘official’ knowledge.
The thesis draws on semi-structured interviews with 10 teachers and 20 pupils in one case-study secondary school, supplemented by observational field-notes. The analysis of the data shows that whilst the teachers are generally supportive of personalised learning, they express a number of concerns, such as the potential for pupils’ self-esteem and self-efficacy to be adversely affected when tasks and intervention strategies are adjusted in response to the perceived needs of individual learners. Pupils describe how receiving easier worksheets or being asked more straightforward questions in class might cause them to be seen as less capable, therefore less successful. Although there are only limited opportunities for pupils to personalise their own learning in English secondary schools, there was, nonetheless, evidence from the interviewed pupils that they were prepared to take responsibility for their studies through exercising both agency and autonomy.
It is hoped that this study will further our understanding of how personalised learning comes to be enacted in a school climate characterised by high levels of performativity and accountability. One of the key questions arising from the thesis is the extent to which education should be divided up and shaped around the perceived needs of individuals. In conclusion, it is argued that, if we judge this ‘tailoring’ to be desirable, then we need a better understanding of how to apportion the knowledge, skills, support and educational resources amongst all our young people so that personalised learning has, at its centre, the person.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlan Cribb (Supervisor) & Sharon Gewirtz (Supervisor)

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