If you were tasked with teaching someone everything you know about your job, how would you go about doing it? It is a pretty safe bet that you wouldn’t set up a formal classroom and give lecture style lessons in anticipation of presenting your pupil with a final exam and a subsequent grade. So why do we teach that way in the K-12 environment? In fact, why do we teach that way in higher education and corporate training?
The world began embracing what eventually became our modern classroom model in the mid-18th century. In the 1760s, Prussia’s drive for educational standardization brought about things like teacher certifications, standardized curriculum, age segregation, and so forth. By the 1830s, the Prussian system was well-established in many parts of the world.
Today, we are discovering that there is more than one way to educate. Adaptive learning has proven that. In fact, a thoughtful examination of adaptive learning shows that it is education upended. In other words, it takes the classroom model and turns it on its head.
A Gateway to Grades
The Prussian system of education presents students with a certain set of tasks in a standard core of subjects. Students are expected to complete tasks, absorb information, and take tests. This may seem like a wise and prudent way to teach large numbers of people. But from the student’s perspective, it creates a trap.
Standardized learning that does not account for individual needs teaches students that learning is nothing more than a gateway to grades. They go to school and learn for the sole purpose of getting a passing grade on the final exam. Grades become the goal.
When grades become the goal, learning becomes a means to an end that doesn’t necessarily have any real-world application. How many times have you had to admit that most of what you learned in school has no bearing on your daily life?
Teaching to the Test
The Prussian system also creates a trap for teachers. Because they are evaluated based on the test scores of their students, teachers find themselves in a position of teaching to the test. They are not necessarily helping students learn what they need to know to be prepared for the real world. They are teaching them the facts and figures needed to pass a test.
When teachers teach to the test, the test becomes the all-encompassing metric. There is no incentive to evaluate one’s teaching methodologies as long as test scores remain high. There is no need to evaluate curriculum because tests dictate what the curriculum should be.
Adaptive Learning Focuses on Outcomes
This post began with the premise that adaptive learning is education upended. To illustrate the point, consider Fulcrum Labs’ Adaptive 3.0 learning platform. The platform leverages technology, such as artificial intelligence, and adaptive instruction that maps performance and behavioral patterns to engage learners in absorbing and mastering relevant, real-world content.
With adaptive, a learner’s goal is not to get a passing grade. It is to master each lesson along the pathway to topic proficiency. The instruction designer’s goal is not to teach to a test. It is to facilitate the learning of new skills and knowledge sets that result in actionable outcomes.
Adaptive learning is outcome-based and learner directed. It is powered by artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to ensure that the learning experience is tailored to each learner. The end result is more efficient learning with verifiable, real-world application.
Much of the world has followed the Prussian system of education for the better part of 200 years. Now, there is a new model emerging. It is adaptive learning, and it is turning education on its head.