Adaptive learning is rapidly becoming the future of education. It goes beyond blending technology with traditional forms of education. Instead, it fully integrates technology with the learning environment to create an adaptive approach that learns from each student the best way to deliver new information to that student. Students receive exactly what they need based on their aptitude, learning style and level of mastery rather than what the curriculum plan dictates they learn at any given moment. They receive personal assistance when it is required and are left to explore on their own when it isn’t. A Master of Education in Teacher Leadership allows educators to explore the technology and methodology behind the revolution of adaptive learning.
Types of Adaptive Learning
The two categories of adaptive learning are facilitator-driven and assessment-driven. The facilitator-driven model gives instructors actionable information about their students. This allows instructors to choose the best content for their students.
The assessment-driven model goes a step further by making the learning environment more dynamic and responsive to student needs. The system evaluates student performance almost instantaneously and allows the program to make adjustments independently. It is possible for both methods to be in place within a given program.
Dynamic data is responsive, engaging and immediate. When a student performs a task or takes a test, the information has an immediate effect on his or her academic pathway. This provides several benefits for students and teachers. It is immediately evident if a student’s understanding of a concept is flawed or if they are ready to move on. Far too often students who are completing self-paced work will rush to finish their tasks. They value speed over thoroughness and, as a result, may fail to master the material. Being able to see the impact that rushing is having on their work encourages students to slow down and take their time. They have no other choice as the program does not allow them to move forward until they have demonstrated proficiency in a given area.
The benefit for teachers is similar. They are able to use the data to get an accurate picture of the progress of the class as a whole. If it is clear a student, or group of students, is struggling, they can be taken aside for individual tutoring while the rest of the class progresses.
The actionable real-time data is one of the things that makes this type of technology in the classroom unique and valuable. Unlike a blended model in which technology is used to enhance education, an adaptive model provides the foundation of the education with technology.
Educators have long been aware that personalized instruction is the most effective method of teaching. Giving a student the time and unique resources they need to learn is ideal, but up until recently it has not been practical in large classroom settings. Single teachers simply do not have the time and resources available to provide that type of learning environment for their students, regardless of their wish to do so. Adaptive technology in the classroom makes personalized instruction a reality.
Students who are struggling receive additional time and resources within an adaptive program. Those who excel in a particular area are encouraged to test their knowledge and move on to another module. Many programs encourage exploration when students are advancing more quickly than anticipated. Self-directed exploration is a key factor in facilitating student ownership and engagement in their academic outcome.
Students participating in an M.Ed. Teacher Leadership program will quickly learn that the research behind the best practices in teaching is extensive and evolutionary. It is virtually impossible to implement each proven method due to lack of resources, rigid or outdated curriculum, and class size. However, it is relatively simple to code these factors into a program.
The constant collection of student data, along with the ability of the software to adapt the learning environment based on that data, is what makes adaptive learning programs so powerful and promising. Textbooks that once sat passively on a student’s desk have evolved into searchable databases on laptops. Along the way, they grew to include multimedia aspects, static quizzes and games, but they remained the same fundamentally. The newest generation of textbooks, on the other hand, adapts to the way students learn and switches delivery methods based on what works best for each student.
One of the fundamental flaws in the traditional model of education is the lack of communication between educators and their students. Children typically have difficulty addressing concerns and showing vulnerability in front of peers. They don’t want to ask questions when they don’t understand because they don’t want to lose the respect of their friends. They also don’t want to risk creating more work for themselves if the teacher believes they are falling behind. An adaptive program alerts the teacher for the student when there is an issue. If it is a single student, the teacher can take them aside and give them individual attention where they are encouraged to ask questions without disrupting the learning progress of the other students. If it is clear that a segment of a class is struggling with a single concept, the students can work with the teacher in a group. Knowing they are all on common academic ground can make it easier for them to open up and ask the questions they need answered to succeed.
We have not yet reached a point in the field of education where this type of technology is readily available in all schools or in all subjects. However, it is one of the most promising advancements in education in hundreds of years. This technology has the potential to truly give each student what he or she needs to succeed. It will allow students to thrive as individuals and teachers to connect with students on an individual basis. It has the potential to encourage academic expansion instead of attempting to bring classrooms to an average of student achievement. Adaptive learning promotes the highest ideals of education and allows teachers to focus on students.
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