Sunday, February 16, 2014

Adaptive Teaching

When my wife Margaret was a first grade teacher she had a very strong belief in her kids and also in the fact that as a teacher she had to always be learning and adapting.  In some ways it then seems like a natural fit that when she went into academia she pursued research in a field of study referred to as adaptive teaching.  The basic idea behind adaptive teaching is that teachers can better reach the needs of their students if they can be more adaptive to their students' needs not only over the course of the school year, but also in the moment.  For instance you are teaching a group of 1st graders and working on a lesson you've planned for the day.  The lesson is cruising along as planned but then it gets sidetracked by an interest that pops up from your class of kids.  An example of this I remember from Margaret's own teaching days was the kids being interested in the Mars rover which had just been in the news.  As a teacher in those moments you have a basic choice you have to make.  Do you shut down this conversation that is sparking about the Mars rover and get the kids back on task to your lesson or do you encourage this new dialogue and push your lesson to the side for now. 

There isn't necessarily a right or wrong response but what you have seen in your class in that moment is an opportunity for learning that sprang from the students themselves.  If you are someone like Margaret who is also a big believer in the idea of student agency, students feeling empowered to learn in their classroom environment, then it may seem to you this is a great opportunity to build some of that agency and also build on a new area of interest for further learning.  But even if you don't switch tracks in that classroom moment you still have been opened up to an opportunity for adapting what you were planning on doing maybe the next day in class.  Where you could develop a lesson specifically geared to talk about the Mars rover. 

Today, however, in many classrooms what goes on is pre-scripted.  The day to day lessons and activities are planned out not by the teachers but by companies who produce materials which they sell to school districts with the intent of helping those districts meets the test cores necessary to meet the requirements set in place by No Child Left Behind.  This means teachers have less opportunity to be adaptive and in some cases are actually discouraged from making such changes to their routine. 

Margaret has done quite a bit of work around adaptive teaching and was happy to see an article of hers picked up by Edutopia recently in an article they did about adaptive teaching.  You can read Margaret's piece by clicking the link they have for adaptive teaching or by clicking here.

It's funny but I realized when Margaret pointed this out to me that one of the hard parts of being a researcher is that you throw stuff out there and you hope people read and you hope it has an impact on the intellectual discussion, but it's hard to ever really know.  Seeing an article like this from a group like Edutopia makes you realize that people are listening. 

1 comment:

  1. This is outstanding. Kudos to Margaret. I would like to know how adaptive teaching differs from Montessori methods.