Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Making Classroom Learning Work for More Students

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If we’re going to do classroom teaching, we should be sure to make it work—and find good alternatives for those whose learning styles do not mesh with the classroom approach. John Mullin writes in Pacific Standard:

With one out of five students not finishing high school, our current models for school-based learning still aren’t working for too many of our youth. Enormous amounts of effort and money have been expended trying to address this—to leave no child behind—but the challenge persists. And our collective failure to solve this problem steals opportunity from millions of students every year.

One area receiving a great deal of focus and investment that could potentially address part of this challenge is adaptive learning—digitized curriculum and courseware that can adjust or adapt what comes next for each student based on their degree of mastery with previous work. Unfortunately, efforts to successfully personalize learning through adaptive curricula will fail many students for several key reasons:

  • They are designed for individual students working in isolation on a computer or device, but that’s not how kids spend their time in schools. Classrooms are dynamic (and sometimes disruptive) environments with many, many variables that affect each student’s learning every day. To truly optimize learning, you need to optimize the entire classroom ecosystem.
  • The exercises and problems within any one adaptive curriculum are limited to those chosen by a particular group of authors, editors, and publishers—their best attempt at a one-size-fits-all subset for each content area. But this is still a small subset of all the problems that could be presented, which limits the learning paths that can be traveled, and, therefore, the students for whom a given adaptive curriculum will be effective.
  • They focus only on student mastery. Did you get the problem right? If so, you move on; if not, you repeat or go back. But this gated approach ignores the deep-engagement measures and growth mindset needed for students to actually want to continue—to foster sustained learning and progress.
  • Current adaptive methods ignore the critical role of the teacher, who happens to be the single greatest determinant of student success inside of schools. If you want to help struggling students succeed, then adaptivity needs to be designed to enhance teaching, not bypass it.


We can do better—by harnessing the power of real-time classroom data to not just adapt, but to actually create, curricula unique to each student and each specific classroom. We can adapt, not just for one student working in isolation on a computer, but also for the entire classroom working with their teacher, together, in real time.

This breakthrough technology—which we call generative adaptation—doesn’t just re-organize content like a playlist for each student, it generates new content to fill in the gaps in a curriculum—it makes each curriculum virtually infinite. And then it continuously identifies and refines personalized pathways through that courseware—pathways that optimize both engagement and mastery for each learner.

Because this approach is capable of adapting in real time for every student in the classroom, and filling in any content gaps for each student, we can now deliver one-size-fits-one—a personalized curriculum that is continuously created for and adapted to the individual. . .

Continue reading.

I have to say, “Been there, done that.” Computer-managed instruction is an old idea, and I had the good fortune to work with a man who took it to a high level. But the entrenched bureaucrats of public education can pretty much stomp any idea to a shape that fits with what they’ve always done, even if doing so destroys what the innovation would have delivered. The educational establishment is astonishingly resistant to change, in part because the control is almost always local: school board by school board, and each one resisting any change: “Let’s do it the way it was done in my day—I succeeded pretty well in that environment!”

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Education, Technology

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