As adaptive learning products reach more and more learners, we are starting to see exactly how the impact of adaptive learning is changing the way we teach and learn, not just in the classroom but in the home as well.
When I was teaching, the idea of issuing homework was mainly an afterthought, “if you haven’t finished by the end of the lesson, complete it at home”, but across the globe homework can take many forms: “work on it over the weekend and let me know what you learn”, “read page 20” or “complete chapter 2 questions”. These examples are fairly typical, but they’re also very static exercises that have a very defined scope. What impact does homework have on the learning experience, when the goal line changes and the scope adapts to the individual learner’s needs?
I was recently lucky enough to visit a classroom where they were using an adaptive product both in the classroom and at home. Talking to some of the learners, an issue became apparent where selected learners were using the product at home, who then came to rely on their parents for help when they became stuck. This presented itself as students excelling at home, but struggling in the classroom for no visible reason.
Traditionally, a learner asking a parent or guardian, or even a friend for help is not really an issue at all! The fact the learner is motivated enough to ask for help is clearly better than ignoring the task and failing to complete it. But when these responses are collected, analysed and used to inform data models, these models can become out of sync with the learners knowledge reality.
How is this a bad thing for adaptive based learning products? Quite simply by adapting to the wrong person. In any capacity where the work issued, or information collected is impacted by the third party, the baseline understanding of the learner is compromised. Meaning in our example, the content being provided to the learner was better suited to the learner with a parent by their side.
None of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t help your learner if they become stuck! But when helping your learners in an adaptive environment, it is important to consider the impacts this has on the learning environment in the future.
Here’s some helpful tips for supporting your learner when not just using adaptive products, but also completing homework in general:
1) Don’t answer for your learner.
Your learner should be the one to make the final answer, regardless of being correct or incorrect. Try not to lead them to one answer or another, let them talk through the potential answers and why they think it would be correct
2) Allow your learner to make mistakes.
It’s important to let the adaptive product know what the learner thinks the answer is, even if that’s incorrect. Let them submit what they think the answers are and encourage them to keep trying!
3) Support by explaining.
The best support you can give the learner (knowing that even an incorrect answer is helpful) is to make sure they understand the question they’re being asked. If you explain the question in a way that’s more helpful for your learner, without changing the core idea, then feel free to do so within reason.