21st century teachers must optimize student learning

Innovation Continues:
More than 10 years into the 21st century (can you believe it?) teachers and administrators are beginning to understand the profound changes that must occur in education in order for the United States to continue to be competitive. There has been talk of raising standards (as evidenced by the introduction of the Common Core State Standards) and more fully integrating technology into the classroom, but what it all comes down to is optimizing the learning of each individual student.

Optimized Learning Zones:
Each student enters school in the fall with a unique zone of optimized learning. The zone is the space between a student’s prior knowledge and current skill level, and the academic standards he or she is expected to meet by the end of the school year. The idea is to incrementally build on prior knowledge of a particular topic in a way that will not bore the student or be too challenging.

There is a great deal of variability between each student’s optimized learning zone, determined by different backgrounds, areas of skill, and potential language or cultural barriers. The trajectory of optimized learning differs for each student, and in a perfect world teachers would have the opportunity to assist students individually so they have the greatest chance for academic success.

Unfortunately, many teachers face classrooms of 20 students or more, making the task of guiding each student through an individualized learning path toward the specified academic goals nearly impossible, particularly because zones of optimized learning are constantly shifting. What is a 21st century teacher to do?

Student-centered learning
In order for students to stay squarely within the trajectory of their zones of optimized learning so they can gradually build upon prior knowledge, teachers will need to create student-centered learning environments. In general, this means encouraging students to take active roles in their education rather than passively ingesting (but perhaps not truly understanding) new material. This method of education emphasizes a deeper understanding of content and giving an increased sense of autonomy to students. This can be accomplished by substituting long lectures with active, small group work or asking students to discuss open-ended problems and utilize their creative thinking skills. The classroom environment should be one of exploration and provide opportunities for individualized learning.

Intelligent adaptive learning systems
Of course, teachers can’t be in 20 different places at once, which is why supplemental tools are often needed to give students the individualized learning experiences that they need to stay within their personal zones of optimized learning. Intelligent adaptive learning systems are gaining popularity because they create digital education environments specifically designed to keep students within their optimized learning zones. As students answer questions and work through new material, the program constantly adapts instruction to adjust the trajectory of learning. It works to identify the root causes of students’ mistakes, and provides feedback just as a teacher would in an attempt to prevent the student from making the mistake again.

What strategies do you use to guide students through their zones of optimized learning?

Related White Paper:

a-continuous-improvement-frameworkA Continuous Improvement Framework: Data-Driven Decision Making in Mathematics Education
As educators face ever-increasing pressure to improve student achievement, data has assumed even greater importance in teaching and learning models. How can you organize people and processes to reach education objectives with data? This white paper will help guide your efforts to reach 21st century goals for evidence-based and data- driven methods to be more accountable as you personalize student learning.
Download the full version, here.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Throughout her life and career, Jessie Woolley-Wilson has been driven by a singular belief that all children need and deserve high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of who they are or where they live. She believes that by supporting great teaching and learning, everyone wins: kids, families, communities and the world. Jessie has worked in the education technology space for nearly 20 years to support school and district leaders to improve learning and life outcomes for K-12 students.

Jessie joined DreamBox Learning® in 2010 as Chair, President, and CEO. The startup software company had pioneered Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ in 2006 and began partnering with schools soon after Jessie joined. Today, DreamBox serves nearly 3 million K-8 students and approximately 120,000 teachers. The company provided more than 350 million math lessons across the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

Jessie recently secured a $130 million investment in DreamBox from The Rise Fund, a global impact investing fund managed by TPG Growth. Prior to joining DreamBox, Jessie served as president of Blackboard’s K-12 Group and LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the K-12 division of LeapFrog Enterprises. Jessie also served in leadership positions at collegeboard.com, the interactive division of The College Board, and at Kaplan, the leading test preparation company in the U.S.

Jessie supports the broader K12 industry by serving on the boards of several educational organizations including Rosetta Stone, Newsela, the Western Governors University Board of Trustees, and Ursuline Academy. She is also a board member for Boeing Employees Credit Union, Pacific Science Center, and The Bullitt Foundation. She has been a featured speaker at international events including TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, DENT and GeekWire Summit 2018.

Jessie is a two-time recipient of EdTech Digest’s EdTech Leadership Award for her work in transformative innovation in education and honored her as one of 2018’s Top 100 Influencers in EdTech. Seattle Business Magazine awarded Jessie the 2015 Executive Excellence Award in the CEO of the Year category and Forbes placed her on its “Impact 15” list for being a disruptor in education. The Puget Sound Business Journal honored Jessie as a “Woman of Influence” and 425 Magazine named her as one of eight “Unstoppable Eastside Women” for having a clear focus on the greater good. Additionally, The New York Times has profiled Jessie and her leadership style in their Corner Office column.

Jessie holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia. She is also a 2007 Henry Crown Fellow and moderator for the Aspen Institute.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson