What do Instructional Design Models and Early Childhood Programs in Reggio Emilia, Italy have in Common?

From birth to school age, learning is already personalized for preschool children. Especially in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As young children grow and develop, they explore their environments and develop natural interests for learning. They acquire “a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, [and] of speaking…” (Malaguzzi, 2012). Then, as illustrated in the poem, No Way, The Hundred is There, the school and the culture kills ninety-nine. The school and the culture “tell the child to think without hands, to do without head, to listen and not speak, to understand without joy…” (Malaguzzi, 2012). The school and the culture help to force students to abandon the natural learning process and their natural learning interests, thus complying with contrived learning topics which may or may not feel relevant.

I liken the theory of personalized learning to instructional design models since instructional design models place students at the center of the design process. Students are encouraged to set goals and to participate in the design of their learning pathways. As preschool children design their own learning byway of following their desired interests, instructional design models also allow students to acknowledge and recognize their learning interests, learning preferences, and learning needs by way of their natural learning desires. This  promotes student voice, student choice, and student agency. Table 1 below compares curricular design models with instructional design models. I included this table because it supports my claim that the theory of personalized learning is strongly related to principles of instructional design.

My experience in Reggio Emilia, Italy has taught me a lot. For starts, expert pedagogists present reality, explore reality, and turn facts into conjecture for their young students daily, in order to increase critical and creative thinking. Expert pedagogists also reinforce the young child’s sense of the possible using their Zones of Desirability. Zones of Desirability is defined as the gaps between the young child’s knowledge and his or her desire to know. This gap becomes an irritant to the young child, creating a strong urge to fill his or her knowledge gaps with missing knowledge. As a result, the child seeks information and self designs learning experiences that can possibly fill those knowledge gaps thereby creating new knowledge.  Moreover, Zones of Desirability limits knowledge fragmentation within the young child and is a part of the knowledge building processes and the learning processes that the child gains.  Figure 1 below, shows the flow of knowledge within the Zones of Desirability.

Figure 1:

With the student being at the center of instructional design models, one can imagine that Zones of Desirability are embedded within instructional systems design.  As the student proceeds to learn what he or she desires to learn (based on learner preferences and interests), the instructional designer personalizes the learning experience for students by default.  Hence, what do instructional design models and Early Childhood Programs in Reggio Emilia, Italy have in Common? They both cultivate the curiosity and imagination of learners, and they both use instructional design practices that lead to the satiation of learner curiosity, desires, and goals.

Reference:
Edwards, C. P., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. E. (2012). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia experience in transformation. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.

How is Personalized Learning related to an Ownership Quotient?

“Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible” (Abel, 2016).

This quote is an excellent summary of all of the articles that I have read on personalized learning thus far. Embodied in Abel’s quote is the assumption that learners will take ownership of their learning, hence leading to greater self-efficacy, self-regulation, self-direction, and learner independence, which are all by-products of learner ownership. As a result, all of these by-products create high quality personalized learning.

Using the balance scale as an analogy, high quality personalized learning repositions the learner on the balance scale, thus placing equal weight of accountability on both the learner and the teacher. Therefore, high quality personalized learning enables learners to pursue proficiencies and competencies that are aligned to established standards while teachers create on-demand “instructional interventions and supports for each student” during the learning process (Abel, 2016).  Out of this dichotomy comes an ownership quotient. 

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In the world of business, the ownership quotient encompasses a degree or amount of a specified quality within an organization. Specifically, it is the quality of the linkages between employees, customers, and profits. These linkages create a service/profit chain.

This same concept is applicable to education, especially under the umbrella of personalized learning. Instead of the linkages being the employees, the customers, and the profits,  for a school district or educational organization, the linkages are the faculty, the students, and student achievement.

According to the Ownership Quotient (2008), there are 8 key links within the service/ profit chain that influences linkages. I’ve adjusted those 8 links to fit education, hence they are key links within the service/student achievement chain.

1.  The ownership opportunity (e.g.,opportunity for faculty and students to own the teaching and learning process).
2.  Build ownership into the strategic value vision (e.g., adding methods for achieving staff and student ownership in the both the district’s vision and the strategic plan).
3. Leverage value over cost (this principle is aimed specifically at district level leadership).
4. Put [students] to work.
5. Boost the [Faculty] Ownership Quotient (e.g., faculty feels like a co-owner within the organization).
6. Engineer ownership through anticipatory management (e.g., create buy-in from faculty and students by planning for possible learning difficulties or setbacks).
7. Build a strong and adaptive ownership culture (beginning at the district level and ending in the classroom, every individual associated with the district owns the teaching and learning process).
8. Sustain success.

In sum, the Ownership Quotient theory applies well to the idea of personalized learning. As students begin to own their learning, the quality of the service/student achievement linkages improve since the following elements show true ownership of learning and constructs each link in the chain:
a) self-efficacy,
b) self-regulation,
c) self-direction, and
d) learner independence

Reference:

Abel, N. (2016, February 17). What is Personalized Learning. INACOL. Retrieved July 02, 2018, from https://www.inacol.org/news/what-is-personalized-learning/

Heskett, J. L., Sasser, E. W., & Wheeler, J. (2008). The ownership quotient: Putting the service profit chain to work for unbeatable competitive advantage. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.