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Can Adaptive Learning Make a Difference in the Classroom?

  • 3 Min Read

Teachers use data to guide their instructional practices and provide intervention when needed.  Many K-12 schools have data meetings or talks to discuss student progress and develop intervention strategies. These talks are important for guiding instruction and providing teachers with support in their classrooms.  However, meeting the needs of every student can be challenging.

The Challenge of Personalizing at Scale

With the rise of technology in schools, teachers also have access to software that can assist them in these efforts.  Students use these programs for remediation, but it’s often used in a lab setting, separate from classroom content, with no integration.  In my opinion, adaptive technology that works with the content students are learning in the classroom makes a bigger impact.

I work with students and teachers every day, so I understand how useful this technology is. Every student comes to the classroom with areas of strength and difficulty.  Imagine being able to customize how content is delivered to students based on their needs. I have students who need remediation and those who should be allowed to accelerate.  Last week, I was speaking to a parent who was complaining because his daughter was having to do exercises that she had previously mastered in order to move forward in the course.  He wanted her to skip unnecessary assignments and have more advanced content.  I agree with him, but I also recognize that manually making these adjustments to our online content is challenging, given the number of students we teach.  Adaptive technology could help me do that.

How Adaptive Learning Can Make a Difference

With adaptive technology, students could do a diagnostic test that would assess their knowledge of objectives before they start a chapter or unit.  Based on a student’s performance, the technology could eliminate unnecessary assignments and allow navigation of a course in a manner best suited for them. As the teacher, this would allow me to provide better instruction. What’s more impressive is that the technology uses the student’s data to determine how the student is learning.  It tracks their learning behavior in a comprehensive way, which is difficult for teachers to do given the average number of students in most classrooms.

A greater concern are the students who need more guidance, or perhaps different content to help them master the objectives.  When I taught high school, I had roughly 150 students.  I taught six class periods a day, with each period lasting 50 minutes.  Can you imagine how difficult it is to individualize instruction in those parameters? Using data to guide me, I provided remediation and supplemental resources to help students understand the material they were struggling with.  However, there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to individualize and personalize the content without technology to assist me. With blended and online learning, and the digital content options available today, adaptive technology can empower teachers and provide them with the ability to personalize the learning experience for students.

Adaptive learning technology offers the ability to intervene immediately.  Whereas a teacher might be collecting formative and summative data to analyze, adaptive learning technology is doing so while the student is performing a task at hand.  Combined with teacher expertise, this could change the way learning happens!

Personalization of the student learning experience is elevated through adaptive learning technology.  If education is going to move towards a personalized path, then I think that adaptive learning technology will have to play a vital role in its success.  Teachers are the experts, and when given the right set of tools and resources, that expertise can be used to make an even bigger difference in the lives of students.

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Table of Contents

  1. The Challenge of Personalizing at Scale
  2. How Adaptive Learning Can Make a Difference