27 October 2011

The Personalized Learning Model

The first two parts of this series discussed the Tyranny of the Bell Curve and a strategy for Tackling Bloom's Two Sigma Problem. In this third and last part I describe the Personalized Learning Model that many of us are using to guide investments in education technology.

The diagram to the right is similar to those used by other education technology organizations so it's not unique to the Gates Foundation. The key components in most any Adaptive Learning System or Instructional Improvement System are Student Data, Educational Content and Assessments. We use precise definitions of these:

  • Learning Objectives are specific competencies to be learned in a particular subject domain. Most courses, both online and legacy media, start with a set of learning objectives. However, if data, content and assessment systems are to interoperate, a common set of objectives must be shared among them.
  • Student Data is a collection of  evidence of what competencies or skills a student has achieved. On a scale of weak to strong evidence, it includes presence information (the student attended a class), activity information (the student viewed a particular video or performed a lab) and assessment results.
  • Learning Content includes reading materials, textbooks, interactive activities, lesson plans, exercises and any other content that's intended to teach about a subject.
  • Assessments are student activities that are instrumented in such a way that we can measure competence in knowledge or skills. You can think of multiple choice and true/false as activities that are deliberately simplified to make them easier to instrument. However, assessment technology is advancing in ways that make it possible to instrument more realistic activities.
The Feedback Loop describes the process of learning, from determining what a student doesn't know, to teaching the subject, to assessing competency. For the feedback loop to work effectively, it must cycle frequently supplying rich and accurate feedback to students and educators.

Most of our education technology investments involve some combination of improving the state of practice in these areas and improving interoperability among systems. Future posts in this blog will profile some of the most important initiatives we and others are working on.


Posts in this series:
Breaking the Tyranny of the Bell Curve
Tackling Bloom's Two Sigma Problem
The Personalized Learning Model

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