Every year in the United States, more than one million students drop out of high school. While focusing on high school retention is important and programs to encourage students to stay in school are helpful, the problem starts from the first moment a student steps into a classroom. Young students come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural, financial, and educational in terms of the kind of educational environment they experienced before entering the K-12 education system. The gap between top students who go on to attend prestigious colleges and struggling students who leave school before graduating high school stems from the one-size-fits-all education that negatively impacts students who are not suited for a traditional classroom.
Adaptive learning has become a buzzword in our education system and for a good reason. Adaptive tools provide a system that evolves and tailors itself to each student, allowing them to effectively understand new material at their own pace. Unlike traditional learning methods, adaptive learning gauges the ability of individual users and adjusts to challenge each individual user. While a customized curriculum can help all students, its postive impact on lower-performing students is especially striking. Students who fall behind, even if their performance is only slightly below average, can become frustrated and unmotivated if they believe that the work they are given is beyond their abilities. Thus, if they are challenged at the right level and pace, struggling students can still continue to progress and succeed in school in the way that best fits them.
Furthermore, adaptive schoolwork is often more interactive and engaging than traditional learning methods, using gaming as a technique to make learning enjoyable for users. Elementary students in particular often do not react well to the traditional classroom where there is little interaction and creativity involved in day-to-day activities. The use of goal-oriented computer modules and challenged-based games have been shown to improve student engagement and allow students to use the same technology that they may use outside of schools for educational purposes. Adaptive learning provides teachers with the opportunity to consider using alternative, innovative teaching methods in the classroom.
Simple examples of adaptive technology in the classroom include the implementation of adaptive problem sets and quizzes. Lesson plans in many subjects such as Mathematics, English, and Science are traditionally organized by topic or problem type. Using adaptive learning tools, instructors can give students additional practice problems if a student is lacking in a specific area. Traditional problems sets may contain a variety of problems but there is often a set number that is spread out evenly among a few problem types. With technology, these problem sets can be adjusted in real-time as students work through different questions. All in all, there is great potential for the inclusion of more adaptive learning methods for K-12 education and it should be an area that is further explored.
Adaptive Learning Products & Resources in the K12 Space
Dreambox Learning: Adaptive Learning
McGraw Hill Education: Adaptive Learning’s Next Audience: Struggling K-12 Students
K12 Blueprint: Personalized Learning
EdTech Update: Tools for Adaptive Learning
Ed Surge: Adaptive Learning