The Rise of Investing in Humanity (Part 2): “Personalized Education – a lesson from business”

In our last blog (Part One) we discussed how the narrow pursuit of standardized learning and assessment has contributed to an impersonal and dysfunctional edusystem.

What we need in this complex world, is a systematic way to create new knowledge to solve real-world problems, by pooling the expertise of people who can bring very different strengths to the table and think together.  By sparking off each other we can collectively create the new knowledge needed for success in today’s world. This is called collective cognition.

What the education system needs to deliver is meeting individual needs, learners with different and complementary strengths and the capability to connect and create with each other. Not clones that all meet the exact same benchmarks by having memorized the exact same content for the exact same tests.

The shift is already taking form in education systems throughout the world, in which teachers and other leaders are embracing the power of collective cognition to create new knowledge and learning meaningful to the lives of individuals. A shift can’t succeed without a measurement system that resists what is easy to measure in favor of what is actually important.

What would happen if we took the Wealth Management Advisor’s (see previous blog) advice and started measuring a personalized and more humanity-driven outcome, in education as well as in the financial/business sector? Does the difficulty of measuring the human capacity to drive the world forward provide sufficient grounds to ignore it?  Medical Doctors have been expected to use their professional judgement when synthesizing a range of data points for years.

Brandon Busteed (executive director of Gallup Education) coined a term ‘Educonomy’, which accurately forecasts why the education economy is the next big thing for the American workforce through integrating our edusystem, employers and job creators – unless we get education and the economy working seamlessly together and more effectively, economies will stagnate on all fronts.

If we look to the business world for some ‘personalization’ examples we readily see just how personalized many products services and systems have become.  Amazon is a typical example – you maybe be surprised to learn that it’s not the bestselling items that generate the most revenue, instead Amazon makes far more from selling one or two hundred copies of ‘hard-to-find’ products in their niche markets, compared to a few thousand copies of a ‘popular’ item from their bestselling range.

Take the ubiquitous Apple iPhone.  Every handset of each model is manufactured to the same high standardized design and yet it’s hard to imagine a more personalized product with over 1.5 million apps available and countless phone cover options.  The ultimate ‘mePhone’.

The point is: Why hasn’t education adopted a similar approach? Educators have seen the value of personalization in shaping learners’ minds to pursue what they each value, excel at, and hope to achieve as individuals. To do this effectively, we must personalize assessment methods as well. By shifting the focus away from only test scores and onto a more diverse range of ways of demonstrating competence, we can cultivate minds capable of reasoning and creating in the ways required by an economy reliant on growth-ensuring differentiation.

We were somewhat surprised that when the Wealth Management Advisor put up the social impact funding trends and beside education was ed-tech. No mention of pedagogy or deep learning. We have seen countless districts and even countries go one – to – one devices only to find out that this is not a core driver of student success. It is only through great pedagogy that technology can truly become ubiquitous.  The fact is, the focus is too often on education technology as a driver of the change so clearly needed for modern teaching and learning. While technology is a powerful enabler of change, teachers and education leaders are the true drivers of learning and success for students within and beyond formal education. Humans drive change, and we do so through the recognition of humanity in all we teach and serve.

We cannot think that our schools and colleges will be able to test our way out of this mess. Perhaps the most important education-related news story was from Google—the world’s second most admired brand—announcing that it found almost no correlation between the grades and test scores of its employees and their success on the job, so the company no longer asks all its applicants to provide these things. This is a canary in the coal mine – as goes Google so does the business world.

Waiting until we no longer have a choice means choosing to let the system fail our learners, placing them in the same position as so many after the Wall Street crash – without a job, and at a loss of how the system let them down.