Credit: Britt Spencer
The pace of innovation in schools has been sluggish, but a new breed of smart tools will make sense of standardised tests – and tailor learning to each pupil
If I had to pick between an amazing teacher and amazing technology, I’d pick the teacher every time. But we need to empower these teachers with better tools to engage in the task of serving a population of students with diverse needs. In 2020, they will have tools that allow each student to work on what is most appropriate for their needs in an environment of fast-cycle, continual improvement. This will help put education, which has had decades of little improvement in countries such as the US or UK, finally on track to accelerate student learning.
School students today are measured by standardised tests, but they are not popular. Some view them as imperfect tools to benchmark students relative to each other. Others view them as sources of stress for students and faculty that take away from valuable class time and distort incentives. And everyone agrees that they aren’t actionable. What is a teacher supposed to do when a test shows that a third of their fifth-grade students are operating at a fourth-grade level? Do they teach to fourth or fifth grade or someplace in between? How do they know which of a whole series of educational approaches are most effective for their students?
In 2020, technology will enable us to connect standardised assessments to individualised interventions. Intelligent software will use test scores to reveal where students truly are in their learning journey, and where they need help. Based on that, software will place each student into personalised learning plans that they can move through at their own time and pace. Pupils will get as much practice as they need, in the areas they need most.
The process will be continuous. Every interaction will further inform where students are. Rather than having to wait for the next year to understand how students are progressing, teachers, principals and district leaders will be able to monitor students’ progress on state or national standards in near real-time through online dashboards.
With rich student insights, teachers will be able to enact more focused interventions for struggling students. And when the standardised tests are re-administered, school districts will be able to confirm the efficacy of the interventions and further validate students’ progress.
Tools such as this will not only allow students to learn more and empower teachers to be more dynamic in their approach to helping them, it will also finally give educators the tools to run experiments faster and with better data. A school could randomly assign students to one of two cohorts, testing a new approach with one cohort – including approaches that are not technology based – and then comparing their growth to the control cohort. Once again, this data will be available in near real-time.
In 2020 we will understand that every student has different needs and learns at different rates. And we will have the tools to engineer and measure continual improvement. This will give us effective education practices at a scale that will be empowering to teachers and students. It won’t be a silver bullet, but progress will move the dial forward in a continual march, which over time will lead to far more prepared and empowered students.
Sal Khan is the founder and CEO of Khan Academy
Source: Wired UK