Making School Personal

Dan Buckley wants to make school personal, an approach that requires a somewhat radical shift in thinking. “We are blinded by custom and old limitations,” Buckley says. “No corporation or democratic government would ignore its customers. And yet, that is exactly what schools are doing. We must listen to our students, and get them engaged based on what they want to learn.”

Can this democratic approach to education work on a large scale? Buckley believes
that, with the proper framework and leadership, prescriptive curriculums can be replaced by more personal ones. Buckley created Personalisation by Pieces (PbyP), a secure web community that supports three core aspects of 21st century learning: developing skills and competencies, peer assessment and mentoring.

Why is education important to you? 

Once minds are closed it is extremely hard to reopen them.  We have to get education right, not only to open up people’s minds, but also through this same window to help them release their own potential.

Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you?

He was a chemistry teacher who was first a carpenter, then an actor, then an engineer and so on.  He appeared to have not done any one thing for more than a few years.  I don’t remember anything about Alkanes or what the Haber process is, but the concept of life being fluid completely blew my mind and has stayed with me.

How can other educators facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned?

Most of the tools I have developed are free for others to use but the best advice is to have a really clear idea about what education is for, read widely so you don’t needlessly repeat mistakes, then when you are ready, don’t try to change the world in a day. Work out a set of steps that eventually get you there and work on step one with as much passion as if it was step nine.

If you could change one thing about today’s “system” of education, what would it be?

I would reduce the amount of prescribed content to a maximum of 20% of curriculum time.

What advice would you give a new teacher? 

Learning works best if you change the teacher ratio from 1:30 to 31:31 by investing in the skills learners need to teach. Coach and care for each other in inventive new ways that you would never have thought of. And don’t teach anything you can Bing or Google…

Making education more dramatic can seem at odds with our current system. How have you found ways to put more focus on kids’ individual learning styles?

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About Dan Buckley
Director of Pedagogy at Cambridge Education, Fellow of Education Impact, Author

Dan Buckley calls himself the “music obsessed proud Dad of Niazy and Issie.”   He is a frequent speaker and author on the subject of empowering students and finding ways to value, assess and reward competencies such as higher order thinking skills, creativity and collaboration.  Buckley has won the BECTA Secondary Leadership award and the UK National Teacher of the Year award for Innovation and Creativity.
Birthplace: North West England
Current residence: South West England
Education: Degree in physics, trained to be a teacher, qualified headteacher
Website I check every day:  BBC news
Person who inspires me most:  Vygotsky
Favorite childhood memory: My Mum being so happy at returning to St Marks Square in Venice that she did a rather flamboyant dance, embarrassing my sister.
Next travel destination: Australia for work.
Favorite book: Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

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