Education Analytics | Using Data for Personalized Learning
Around the world, teachers and learning specialists are starting to advocate for personalized learning or individualized education, in which class materials and projects are targeted to address the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student. Supporters of personalized education say that that old industrial-age, lecture-based instruction is starting to fail our students — and that a data-driven approach may help us craft an education for the future. Its detractors argue that personalized learning needs to more evidence, scrutiny and oversight.
What it is: Educators are taking note of the techniques that successful businesses use, tracking classroom learning data to improve how they design and deliver their courses. By analyzing how students perform on assessments and how they engage with online material, they aim to tailor content to individual learners, sparking interest in their favorite subjects and challenging them with material that’s right at their level.
How it works: Whether they’re filling in a chapter quiz, watching a video, or taking a graded test, students who interact with class material online create countless pieces of data. Predictive or adaptive learning systems can then take this data (whether it’s how many times they pause the video or which questions they answer correctly on an exam), analyze the gaps in a student’s knowledge, and point them to the appropriate learning materials. In this system, students gain rapid feedback for the next problem, teachers adapt their daily lesson plans to reflect what needs to be learned, and schools can refine their curriculum and teaching strategies over time.
Why it matters: As envisioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan (NETP), personalized learning and embedded assessment will help students adapt to the challenges and structure of the Age of Information. Rather than to stay the course with traditional classrooms, in which students are taught with a standard, one-size-fits-all approach, teachers can use LA to provide their students with greater autonomy and prepare them for a workplace in which people design their own goals, have access to more information than ever before, and learn at their own pace in distance and e-learning certification programs.
How it is being used: Charitable organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provide funding to test and implement online systems that personalize course delivery, especially for classes that usually end with a high percentage of students dropping out. And in elementary and secondary levels of education, tools like Socrative provide teachers with the fast, easy assessments and data they need to personalize their teaching.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works tirelessly to improve education from the K-12 through university level, offers a concise primer on personalize learning, including the roles that teachers, school systems and administrators, and technology play.
The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder’s research brief, “Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching” makes a compelling argument that schools and policymakers should adopt a more cautious approach to the popular trend.
Elise Leise is a writer and international teacher whose work has published in The Huffington Post and MinnPost. Having taught English in Senegal and wrote tech columns in Thailand, Elise now attends Quest University in British Columbia, Canada. After graduating, she plans to contribute to innovative curriculums, policies and educational tech in schools around the world.
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