Adaptive Learning

The key to unlocking student potential.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jessie Woolley-Wilson

CREDIT Dreambox adaptive learningWith an understanding of their growing and ethnically diverse student population, district administrators in Baltimore County School District set their sights on raising the academic bar and closing achievement gaps so that its students could compete globally. How did they do it? The district built a new blended learning curriculum that incorporated adaptive learning to improve student outcomes and provide a digitally rich, personalized learning experience for all students. Baltimore County isn’t alone.

When students are informed about their own education, they have the power to shape decisions and their personal learning experience.

Districts around the country are looking for ways to leverage technology to change the learning model, empower students to play a more active role in their education, and offer more opportunities for personalization to students. Unfortunately, only a limited number of schools are tapping into the potential of adaptive learning technology due to a lack of understanding about what adaptive is and how it can truly change the education game.

The power of adaptive learning technology is its ability to learn the learner. The software gets to know the learner through use, and leverages what it learns to recommend the next best lesson for each student. This happens continuously and in real time, generating powerful data. True adaptive learning technology improves student confidence. As they persist through a challenge toward mastery, they must be inspired to try something they don’t know.

The hope is students are inspired by productive struggle and experimentation to achieve new understandings about what they are learning.

In other words, students must adapt in order to fulfill their potential and prevail both in and out of the classroom. This approach cultivates deep and purposeful thinking, and creates a new kind of learning opportunity that all children can benefit from and enjoy. When students are informed about their own education, they have the power to shape decisions and their personal learning experience.

Adaptive learning technology also has the ability to help teachers individualize learning for every student, regardless of their own personal strengths and challenges. When teachers have access to meaningful, actionable data that dynamically changes as a student learns, they can adapt and meet the needs of everyone in the classroom. Teachers understand that data is the key to help them reach their goals. In a Gates Foundation study, Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work, teachers told researchers that they want data, but in order for it to be useful for personalizing instruction, it needs to help assess, analyze, and pivot—all in a way that can keep up with the speed of teaching.

By incorporating blended learning with the real-time data that adaptive learning technology provides, a teacher can divide a class into a rotational model based on thirds. The teacher can then deliver live instruction to a small group with greater impact while the other students are engaged in personalized learning at a computer station or on a personal device. Supportive learning technology like this allows students to work at their own pace and on their own path while the output of that work informs the teacher about how best to support each student. This new kind of partnership between learning guardians and adaptive learning software is powerful because it enables personalization at scale.

The future workforce will require a level of mental and emotional agility like never before. Adaptive learning technologies can serve as a solution to engage and motivate students toward lifelong learning and success. The more school districts like Baltimore County that embrace adaptive learning solutions, the more prepared our students will be to succeed now and in the future.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson is president and CEO of DreamBox Learning, the company pioneering an Intelligent Adaptive Learning platform that aims to transform the learning experience.

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