Adaptive technology

According to research from John Hattie and others, students learn best when they’re active in their learning and teaching is adapting to their needs. But what does the successful implementation of active learning and adaptive teaching look like in a classroom and how can teachers create impactful learning experiences for every student?

Melinda Tuckfield is Pearson Australia’s Director of Pedagogy and Improvement. She spent more than 14 years teaching in the Victorian education system, where she held roles as a leading teacher.

Now, Melinda helps apply Pearson’s product development framework to school resources: a vision for high-quality, student-centred learning, designed to ensure that primary school teachers and secondary school teachers have the best resources available, to teach the way their students think and learn.

Pearson’s framework provides a strong evidence base for effective learning and teaching and defines what high-quality pedagogy looks like in the classroom, and how teachers can best prepare for, assess and respond to student learning.

The framework also contains principles, indicators and high-impact teaching strategies, all supported by global research and evidence, to provide the greatest opportunity for learner growth and impact.



Developing the 'how' of teaching

Melinda believes that further developing skills in the ‘how’ of teaching, in addition to the ‘what’ of teaching, is the key for a successful active learning, adaptive teaching approach in all levels of primary and secondary schooling.

“My role is to identify the best evidence-based practices that we should be using within our products and striving to help teachers use them in the classroom. My mantra is, what can we do to help teachers be even better teachers?”

Melinda says that teachers have their own subject matter expertise and individual teaching ideas but it’s Pearson’s focus to help teachers know and understand what to look out for in their student’s learning and then how to respond.

“The role Pearson would like to play is to help teachers identify those things to look for which might be some sort of informal formative assessment or it might be an activity where we want to be able to say, ‘In this activity, if you see children who are doing X, or Y, it probably means this’,” she says.

“That's really what the adaptive teaching is about...you might explain a concept and explore a concept but then, before I move on as a teacher, let's do a quick check in to see, are we right to keep moving on?”


“A teacher knows the students in their classroom, and they know the dynamics of their particular classroom.
What we’re doing is providing a starting point, things to do, things to look for, and some different strategies for dealing with what they see and hear.”



Success looks different in every classroom

Although success in this space looks different in every classroom, Melinda believes teachers need to be really clear on what they’re intending for the students to do and learn or come away with at the end of the lesson.

“Teachers might have a plan of what they want to achieve, but that needs to be pretty fluid, and it doesn’t mean you would always do the same thing in every classroom,” she says.

“[Teachers] need to establish if that has been successful and what this looks like. Those are the two key elements,” she says.

“My classroom might look quite different from someone down the hallway, just because I’ve got different students in the room or I might have done an activity that meant I needed to spend a bit more time on something, or I might have to try some other ways of teaching a concept.”


She says that teachers should consider employing more and more high-impact teaching strategies, such as providing different types of learning activities and opportunities to actively engage with the content in some way, whether that be through a hands-on activity outside or in group collaborative work.

However, aside from the content, concepts and skills, Melinda says teachers are also trying to develop students’ skills in communication, constructing arguments and using the language of the subject, and that Pearson is exploring this space too.

Active learning, adaptive teaching helps students to communicate and work together

“We are trialling something at the moment that scaffolds collaborative and communication skills,” says Melinda. “We provide a scaffold for teachers and students to use and respond to, which helps to build these skills in a very explicit way. It helps build questioning and feedback skills as well.”

“What we can do is to provide teachers and students with a scaffold to respond to that and then that gives the teacher some different ideas of how they can then give feedback to their students on their responses.”

Melinda says that a couple of the teachers that they’ve been working with have said that although sometimes the students didn’t always use the provided sentence stems in their responses, they noticed that they were actually talking to each other using that language.

“They're seeing a change in the way kids are actually communicating and working together,” she says.

“The big thing was, one teacher, in particular, said, after doing this a couple of times, using the things we'd provided, ‘I'm now confident enough to try that in another class, doing something completely different’.”

Melinda says that seeing teachers like that, become more confident in how they are using new teaching strategies, was promising but that Pearson had dreams to help every single teacher.

“We want to try and make sure we provide that and help as many teachers as possible, to experiment and gain confidence,” she says.

“Even if they are one of the many really confident, great teachers that are out there, it might be that we help them to validate what they’re doing or put a little twist on what they’re doing.”


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