SMU Study Forces New Questions Around Personalized Learning

YOUR WORDS, NOT MINE: In his latest EdTechResearcher article, Justin Reich asks, “What if your word problems knew what you liked?” The question comes off as some uber-creative start to a d.school brainstorm, but it's actually in response to a study conducted by SMU’s Candace Walkington. In that study, students working word problems aligned to their general interests performed better than the control group at correctly formulating the corresponding algebraic expression, and were equally proficient at solving the problem.

A single study can’t move an institution. As Reich points out, “teachers have obviously long known that tying academic content to students' prior knowledge, passions, and hobbies helps keeps kids engaged.” The bigger question is whether or not content publishers pay notice. Taking a step towards specialized word problems might be a good interim step between "teaching to the test" and realizing true personalized learning. Of course there’s room for a bit of consternation as well. “[I]t's incredibly important in these conversations to identify exactly what people mean when they use the word,” says Reich, and we tend to agree. Here’s to hoping some bright edupreneur moves beyond the buzz world of social, mobile, local, adaptive and actually figures out what students are interested in.

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