Affiliated Project 3

Host Department: Innovation and Digitalisation in Law @ Faculty of Law

Supervision: Barbara Prainsack & Nikolaus Forgó

Pre-doc: Theresa Henne

Personalisation for Personal Development? Governance of Digital Education in Germany and Austria

"Jugend-Computerschule" by Engelbert Reineke, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The school of the 21st century is envisioned as a highly digitalised space, where students and teachers alike are supported by AI-driven technology in delivering meaningful education (European Commission & Directorate-General for Education, 2022). One promise of educational technology (edtech) is that it will enable more personalised learning (Vincent-Lancrin & van der Vlies, 2020). While a single teacher has limited ability to address the individual interests, strengths and needs of students, “adaptive” or “personalised” learning technologies may facilitate or even fully automate the curation of individualised learning pathways (Molenaar, 2021). The design, observed student characteristics, applied learning theory and intended outcome of existing technologies vary and more research is needed to establish best practice (Bernacki et al., 2021).

From a legal perspective, educational technologies have mainly been studied from a privacy and data protection perspective (see, for example, Livingstone et al. 2021 and Jones 2019b), reflecting a broader debate about privacy protection in the face of increasing surveillance by state and private actors (Zuboff 2019; Van Dijck, Poell, and de Waal 2018). Sharon (2021) suggests that the dominance of the privacy debate may leave us 'blind-sided by privacy' (p.545) and unaware of the implications for other societal values. 

In response to this criticism, Theresa's dissertation will examine personalised learning from the perspective of the right to personal development. The right to development of the personality is not only central to the German constitution, but is also enshrined in Art. 29 (1a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which states that the development of the personality of the child is a fundamental aim of education.

Personalised learning technology seems to echo - at least in its wording - the CRC's aim of supporting children's personal development (Watters and Moscow 2022). In her dissertation, Theresa investigates the conditions under which the algorithmic systems used to curate personalised learning pathways may or may not contribute to favourable conditions for children's personal development.

To this end, Theresa is conducting a series of interviews with policy makers, edtech companies, teachers and students to understand the expectations and realities of personalised learning. Based on a case study, Theresa will develop principles derived from the right to personal development for the governance of personalised learning technology.