Adaptive Learning

Aug 10, 2015 11:00:00 AM Jessica Beidelman Teaching and Learning

This is the second installment of a series highlighting top innovations in teaching methodologies.

Read Part I - Inquiry-Based Learning 

Innovative schools are implementing a wide range of curricula in order to complement the classroom technology and school infrastructure that promote student academic achievement. Innovative teaching methodologies rely upon quality teaching and pedagogy in order to lead to improved student outcomes. Innovative teaching methodologies take full advantage of new edtech products and services. 

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning is a computer-based, online educational system that presents material in response to student performance. Intelligent Adaptive Learning (IAL) individualizes and personalizes learning for each student and immerses students in modular learning environments where every decision a student makes is used to guide their learning experiences, to adjust the student’s path and pace within and between lessons and to provide formative and summative data to the student’s teacher. Adaptive Learning tailors instruction to each student’s unique needs and current understandings and interests, while ensuring that all responses subscribe to sound pedagogy.

Impact on Student Learning 


Research has confirmed that the adaptive learning method is more effective than generalized approaches. An example is the findings of four studies conducted at 11 different school sites over a three-year period. According to the researchers, the students in adaptive learning environments consistently earned higher achievement scores on standardized math and reading tests than their control group peers did. In fact, the studies found that a higher than expected percentage of the adaptive learning students scored at or above the 75th percentile in the tests (Wang, Gennari, Waxman 1984).

  • The Gates Foundation cited preliminary findings from the Arizona State University/Knewton project in 2013 when it launched its Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program (ALMAP), pointing to a reported 18 percent increase in pass rates and a 47 percent drop in student withdrawals following implementation of adaptive learning software.
  • A 2008 study published by the Journal of Interactive Media in Higher education found no significant difference in exam scores for students enrolled in Open Learning Initiative’s introductory statistics course (which contains adaptive learning) compared to the traditional course. The study also found that the OLI students took 50% less time to learn all of the content and perform the same or better relative to the traditional students.
  • When adaptive learning programs are implemented, they are able to free up time for teachers to give students one-on-one instruction.
  • Pedagogical research has proven the efficacy of adaptive learning and collaborative learning, demonstrating that adaptive learning optimizes learning success while collaborative learning sparks cognitive development.Adaptive_Technology

Examples of Use 

  • NYC iSchool blends computer adaptive learning with challenges that require students to work together to present real solutions to real problems. The iSchool leaders believe that online learning provides three solutions to common school challenges: to provide a more individualized, self-paced way for students to learn lower level content in preparation for required exams; to broaden the curricular options available for students; and to offer students who study independently opportunities to move at an advanced pace or to recover missed credit.
  • Kunskapsskolan is a Swedish network that uses technology to support individual goal-setting and is the owner and developer of the KED (Kunskapsskolan Education) program — a coherent and proven program for personalized education. The KED program is operated in Kunskapsskolan's 36 schools in Sweden, in the Learning Schools Trust's 5 schools in the United Kingdom and in the U.S and India.
  • Adaptive learning is a uniquely innovative, albeit expensive, way to address the problems of costs, retention, and student success, especially in remedial education where this technology promises to be most useful. 
  • Implementation of an adaptive learning environments does not require the purchase of specially designed curricula. In almost all cases, a school's current curricular resources can be modified and adapted for use in an adaptive learning environment. However, a careful analysis of budget constraints is the first step in the needs assessment phase of designing an implementation plan. Start-up costs tend to vary from school to school, depending on the nature of the school’s curricular preparedness, training requirements and ability to redeploy current resources.

To learn more about Adaptive Learning, you can read: 

Look out for our next post about Interest-Based Learning.