Bill Gates believes in a specific type of learning. As the former CEO of Microsoft (and, lets not forget, the company founder) he attests that among his favorite ways to teach children is to simply let them guide their own learning. Of course, this is much easier with the elementary children of this generation, as they have access to far more advanced multi-faceted tools than previous generations. Gates favors laptops and tablets, with a strategy of having a teacher wait on the sidelines to let children explore, offering coaching and assistance instead of leading and demonstrating lessons.
Known as “personalized learning” this strategy does make a lot of sense, and it is being adopted in more schools around the United States as classrooms continue to get more crowded, teachers continue to get more bogged down, budgets continue to restrict, and families continue to feel the strain of bigger and bigger budgets.
But a strategy, alone, does not really have any merit: we have to test it. So a new study looked at 36,000 young students in a “personalized learning” setting. As it is still quite the new philosophy, we do not have much evidence to support its efficacy but the new study does help to provide actual empirical evidence to show that Gates—and a few other techies—seem to be on the right track in terms of the potential future of education in America.
As a matter of fact, education consulting company Education Elements looked at students in five school districts across the United States over for 2 to 3 years. Mainly, they looked at how this type of learning affected the student’s test scores on the NWEA MAP test.
The study found that students involved with “personalized learning” improved 130 percent in reading assessment and 122 percent in mathematics assessment.
There are several different ways to approach personalized learning, but the stats appear to be quite consistent across the board. The study provides some concrete evidence that in 62 schools who employed this strategy, most of the students improved in math and reading comprehension scores. Perhaps more importantly, the study showed that students who had previously scored lower than average, scored above average thanks to personalized learning.