Contemporary learning is very much archaic. Of course, education is at the highest level it has ever been and the rate of literacy worldwide is approaching 90%, but students are still grouped arbitrarily, placed in buildings 5 times a week, expected to be listening to adults speaking useful information and absorbing it. Parents have no other way to be sure of the learning outcomes of their children except believing that teachers are qualified enough to make students engaged in the educational process.
Of course, this way of learning works to a certain extent but is not very pleasant for all the parties. On the one hand, students are adhering to strict timelines, having the fear of failure accompanying them anywhere, which does not help foster curiosity. Teachers, on the other hand, have a lot of work hours to perform tutoring, assignment planning, grading as well as trying to be attentive to each student’s needs.
Today’s educational system puts less attention to individual self-development than it perhaps should. Which concepts should be adopted to take education to a new level, make it more fun and practical? In this article, the following three concepts are identified as key to better educational experience: mastery, personalization, and experience. We’re going to explore these ideas in depth as well as a possible path for education in the future.
Mastery learning refers to a category of instructional methods which establishes a level of performance that all students must master before moving on to the next unit. Mastery is crucial for a proper education: if you fail to fully grasp fundamental concepts as a kid, things will seem inevitably harder to understand as you progress throughout the years and result in knowledge gaps along the way. Cumulative subjects build on top of themselves, so if you don’t fully understand biology, there’s no way you can learn genetics properly.
In reality, there are different levels of mastery that are permissible in order to move to the next unit. Would you say that people who got A and C have mastered all concepts the same well? The passing grade does not give a person a very good understanding of the subject, just the general knowledge of it. There is also an issue of reliability of grading as a knowledge measurement instrument. There’s a distinct difference between actually understanding a subject and simply learning how to get through a series of tests.
Mastery-based learning can fix all of those issues — through the individualized approach, students can move faster through the subjects they’re better at and dedicate more time to the topics that are more complicated to them. The end result of such approach would be actual knowledge that can spread to other subjects in different sometimes even unexpected ways.
The reasons the mastery-based learning is not adopted are the lack of monetary resources and the rigidness of an existing approach with grades and tests to measure knowledge, even though they may be very faulty.
‘Personalized Learning’ refers to efforts to tailor education to meet the different needs of students. The general goal is to make learning needs of the individuals the primary consideration in important educational decisions, rather than what might be convenient or logically easier for teachers and institutions.
There is a lot of research been made in this field supporting the idea of implementing personalized learning. For example, researchers at the Institute of Education’s National Research Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) found that adults with literacy and numeracy problems show signs of difficulties as early as five years old and need to receive remedial help as they stay behind their peers in all other studies. Also, neuroscience studies have shown the how personalized experiences positively affect how the brain receives information, providing some relevant ideas about how learning works to the synapse-level.
Why does the full potential of personalized education is remained unfulfilled by the most institutions? There are two reasons for this. First one is that this approach requires more specialized teachers per school. The second reason is the lack the proper methods to gather and process personal student data in large scales to provide valuable suggestions. Personalised learning also needs personal non-linear curriculums for each student to be created and adjusted with time; these curriculums would need to embrace the uniqueness of each child.
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Experiential learning engages most of the senses, creates a context for memorization, expands critical thinking, builds social-emotional skills, and therefore undoubtedly is considered the most effective forms of meaningfully retaining information. It also encourages curiosity and experiments.
In today’s system, the concept of experiential learning is implemented to a certain extent. There are art classes with hands-on experience, for example. There is also homework, which could be considered as an experiential task that students hate and teachers like a lot. Homework help a lot in the learning process when done properly, but let’s agree that most of the homework is very dull and uninspiring – its format is predictable, it involves only some of the senses and it does not evoke willingness to do it.
Why hasn’t the design of many homework assignments been changed for a long time? It is easier said than done. Conceptualizing new ways to teach history, math or biology experientially is a huge design challenge. We have all been taught with books and a blackboard and it is a challenge to come up with the new ideas of making learning active and social, keeping the cost low and achieving all learning goals.
Now that we’ve identified the problem and some possible strategic directions for change, let’s talk about the future — and what Artificial Intelligence can bring to change education forever.
A.I. and Ideal Teacher
Artificial Intelligence is one of the most promising technologies today, that has an impact on financial markets, art and medicine creation and so on. A.I. has been changing the way we interact with our devices for the past decade. User interfaces like Siri, Google assistant, Amazon Echo allow people to talk in order to achieve the desired result.
In the educational context, A.I. can be combined with Immersive technologies (Virtual Reality headsets, Augmented Reality glasses and everything in between) to allow students not only converse with assistants and chatbots but provide them with a “body” and a “face” that would be very useful in terms of interaction and connection established.
As the time goes, Artificial Intelligence assistants will be able to understand us better than we’re able of knowing ourselves. If we add improved understanding of intellectual processes and emotions, we can talk about fully functional A.I. teachers that could provide personalized information to you. A.I.’s limitless access to information and digital presence can give it the understanding of subjects and students that any human teacher can only dream of.
The way how student-teacher interact follows a set pattern – lecture taught by a teacher, answering questions, performing an occasional activity, assigning homework. This pattern shouldn’t be difficult for a machine to replicate. It is also possible that new ways of expanding this type of hierarchical relationship will be found and the whole process of teaching will be more engaging.
Another thing that could be addressed by A.I. is that it can have a look of anyone or anything the student would like to observe as a teacher – Isaak Newton, Queen Elizabeth or Terminator – psychological profile of a person could be the best predictor of the most successful character to be visualized as a personal teacher.
A.I. has been learning about us for the longest time— now it’s only a matter of time before it starts teaching us!