Personalising mathematics and English learning in the middle years through co-teaching

Year: 2019

Author: Thomas, Damon, Muir, Tracey, Emery, Sherridan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Personalised learning is a form of instruction that tailors teaching to individual student needs. It has been described as a route to a more socially inclusive education system that engages students as they view learning experiences as meaningfully aligned with their learning needs. Such goals are important yet challenging to achieve, as enacting personalised approaches requires schools to reconsider responsibilities, goals, constraints, learning needs, and roles of teachers and students in educational contexts. It has been claimed that teachers can enact personalised approaches and learn from each other when they work in teams rather than in isolation to cater for individual and group needs. This paper outlines two Tasmanian case studies that sought to personalise learning for middle years students through collaborative teacher practice in the core subjects of mathematics and English.


The case studies employed design-based research (DBR) to investigate whether team-taught, personalised approaches could make prescribed mathematics and literacy learning more meaningful for middle years students. Both case studies were conducted in real educational settings and involved a collaborative partnership between researchers and practitioners.


The first case study examines how teachers capitalised on mathematics test results to personalise students’ mathematics learning. Students were provided with agency in their learning through discussing their strengths and weaknesses as revealed by the tests, and then setting personal goals for their mathematics learning. The Grade 5/6 teachers adopted a team approach to planning and group instruction whereby they developed a sense of shared responsibility for the whole cohort. The results showed that students were able to articulate purposeful mathematical goals and were motivated to engage in mathematical experiences to help them achieve their goals.

The second case study outlines what enabled and constrained a local curriculum innovation in literacy that sought to personalise student learning and promote teacher collaboration. The results showed that meaningful literacy learning was enabled by collaborative teacher planning of learning tasks that catered for different levels of challenge. Increased student agency to select tasks relevant to learning needs and opportunities for self-paced learning also enabled meaningful literacy learning for the middle years’ students.

The findings from both case studies have implications for education researchers and schools regarding the challenges and opportunities of attempts to enact personalised learning and co-teaching in core curriculum areas within the current context.