This Week’s Buzzword: Adaptive Learning in STEAM Education
Adaptive learning is making a comeback in the classroom, its resurgence in blended learning circles providing new opportunities for teachers to engage students in STEAM and STEM programs.
Adaptive learning is all the buzz! Adaptive learning has actually been around for quite some time, but has recently made a comeback as a buzzword because of its advances in applications in the classroom.
What exactly is adaptive learning?
Based off a learner’s responses, answers, and task outcomes, the presentation of education materials and STEAM projects is adapted to fit the needs of the user. Instead of being a passive learner, the student is a collaborator to their education and needs to interact in order to receive the direct feedback that will help them to progress accordingly.
This type of technology has been developed with a combination of fields in its depths: psychology, computer science, brain science, and of course, STEAM education and technology. The most common form of adaptive learning in the past came in the shape of computer tests, where depending on whether the test taker answered correctly or incorrectly would determine if the questions got more difficult.
What does it look like today?
Adaptive learning has emerged in exciting ways that have educators clamoring to integrate it effectively in their classrooms. Gamification, e-learning, cloud-based learning, personalized education, coding classes for kids— it’s all included.
Every learner’s experience is personalized. Everything they see, read, hear, and interact with is tailored to their skill set, way of learning, and level. Adaptive learning is a form of artificial intelligence that works with children to obtain information to know where they are, and how to get them to where they need to be.
But wait, isn’t that the teacher’s job?
Yes and no. The teacher’s role with regards to adaptive learning is the same as before. They are the guiding force behind what is taking place. It’s a break from the traditional classroom in which the teacher is free to wander, make formative assessments, and supervise this type of learning. Adaptive learning is a step up because of its inclusion of innovations in the latest pedagogical findings and STEAM curriculum. It offers a technological one-to-one experience with immediate and tailored feedback and adjustments.
The “feedback” isn’t only given to the students by way of changing and adapting what they see on the screen, but real data feedback is given to their teachers. Teachers can see where students are, what they have learned and not learned, observe learning behaviors and prepare STEAM lesson plans based on this data.
How is it successful?
As this way of learning is becoming more and more used in the classroom, particularly in STEAM schools, we are starting to see some results. Thus far, they are positive! The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned the “Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program”, which provided fourteen $100,000 grants to help implement the methodology into higher education.
At the primary and secondary levels, there has been a correlation of use of adaptive learning with higher test scores. The Open Learning Initiative has conducted several studies about how, for example, students scored six times better using adaptive software for learning then traditional methods. For some more amazing results of inclusion of adaptive learning inside of the classroom, check out this comprehensive article: How Adaptive Learning Really Works
How to get started with adaptive learning
It’s no secret that the programs that use adaptive learning cost money. They can easily run into the thousands, but getting started can be easy if you don’t have a lot of resources or funding.
All you really need is a few computers or tablets and you can rotate your students in centers for each student to get some time using them. There are simple and free STEAM projects, games and apps that you can download to get a taste of what adaptive learning is all about. Grouping up your students also works well if you have coding classes for kids.
If you feel passionately about what you find, try approaching colleagues and eventually your school board to see if an investment can be made. Another option is to apply for grants, contests, etc. to raise money for adaptive learning software. Once you start, you won’t want to stop! Your students will feel the difference and become high achievers in no time.