As personalized learning is becoming more prevalent in education, the pedagogy of instructors is being altered. In other words, by including the learner’s voice, choice, and agency in teacher designed tasks and lessons, this disrupts the smooth operation of the McDonaldized classroom.
The McDonaldlization of teaching and learning views learners as human nuggets rather than individuals. In a sense, many school districts have adopted the characteristics of fast-food restaurants by focusing on efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. How then has this phenomenon impacted student achievement?
- Efficiency: The optimal method for accomplishing a task.
By focusing on efficiency, the onus for learning is placed on the teacher rather than the learner. Hence, the learner becomes passive and unable to process content on a deeper level.
- Calculability: Learning objectives that are quantifiable rather than subjective.
Quantifying learning objectives helps teachers to measure the learner’s knowledge attainment and skills acquired. However, the results of these various measures are examined and used to direct learning pathways for learners without the learner’s input. Hence, the learner’s test scores and grades are fundamentally decontextualized for him or her.
- Predictability: Standardized and uniform services that are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable.
By focusing on predictability, the onus for learning is again placed on the teacher rather than the learner. Hence, teachers religiously use routines to design learning environments and tasks that elicit predetermined responses. As a result, critical and creative thinking tends to be suppressed within the learning environment.
- Control: Standardized and uniform practices that establishes routines.
By focusing on control, the learner’s needs, preferences, and interests are not considered while the teacher is crafting his or her standardized perfunctory practices. Hence, the learner becomes an entity that needs to be controlled rather than taught.
Personalized learning, on the other hand, views learners as the unique individuals they are. Instead of mass producing general lessons and activities for the K-12 agglomerate, personalized learning begets lessons that are made to order for individual students. Personalized learning tailors the environment and learning experiences by factoring in the learners needs, preferences, and interests. How then will this emerging phenomenon impact student achievement?
- Learner needs: What the learner perceives as a weakness or areas for improvement; what the data indicates as a weakness or an area for improvement
By focusing on learner needs, teachers and learners may co-design learning pathways; forging learner agency and promoting the learner’s voice.
- Learner Preferences: Tasks and environmental affinities that the learner has.
By focusing on learner preferences, tasks and environments may be co-designed with the learner; forging learner identity and promoting learner choice.
- Learner Interests: Topics, concepts, and/or theories that the learner has deep interests in and passions for.
By focusing on learner interests, teachers and learners may co-design projects that are relevant for learners; thus forging learner power, also known as productive power.
In sum, McDonaldization of education is eroding. Student nuggets are now unique individual learners who use choice menus to co-design their learning experience. This shift has educators now saying, “welcome to my classroom where you can have it your way.”