Arithmetika personalised, adaptive or differentiated assessment

Personalised (adaptive) assessment

Curriculum focussed tasks that are dynamic in that they 'adapt' according to students' responses, delivering easier or harder questions as appropriate. Each student works on the same topic but at her own level of ability.

Adaptive assessment tasks

You've heard lots about personalised teaching and learning. How about personalised assessment? In Arithmetika you can assign adaptive assessment tasks for most of the Australian Curriculum Mathematics Content Descriptions. Excellent material for formative assessment

Wouldn't it be wonderful ... if every student had a personal tutor?

A miracle teacher or a good personal tutor delivers the holy grail of personalised or adaptive learning. The tutor will find out what the student knows, then build on that. Unfortunately most students don't have a personal tutor, they just share a teacher with 28 other students. Adaptive learning is a great ideal but for most is largely an unrealised ambition.

Differentiated or personalised learning is the hot topic of the day. The introduction to the 7th domain of The National School Improvement programme reads thus: The school places a high priority on ensuring that, in their day-to-day teaching, classroom teachers identify and address the learning needs of individual students, including high-achieving students. Teachers are encouraged and supported to monitor closely the progress of individuals, identify learning difficulties and tailor classroom activities to levels of readiness and need.

Arithmetika meets the new ACER standard head on. Adaptive learning in the classroom may be too hard to deliver, but how about adaptive assessment tasks? Arithmetika leverages the power of computing to deliver adaptive assessment tasks on almost any combination of the mathematics curriculum content. It uses a 'positive feedback loop' mechanism that tailors questions to suit each student according to his or her ability. Intelligent software delivers individualised assessment tasks with almost no administrative work for the teacher, enabling her to focus directly on each student's needs.

The tyranny of the curriculum

Not only do most students have to share the hard-pressed teacher, they have a fixed curriculum. Students in year 8 learn about ... the year 8 curriculum, regardless of what they can remember or understand from previous years.

We call this the tyranny of the curriculum because it is remoreseless. Teachers deliver to their students mandated content that each year is more and more alien to many of the students; some would say alien to most of them. As students get older they are asked to study ever more complex mathematics. One year on, our struggling year 8 students are learning the Year 9 maths curriculum because they are in Year 9 - and so on. Is this a good thing?

And at the other end of the scale, there are students who are walking it. They have an aptitude. They are gifted. But they suffer too. They do not see next year's curriculum until ... next year. Is this always a good thing? Well, no it isn't. In reality, by the time a girl or boy has progressed to school year 9, her or his maths ability may may be way behind, perhaps just about ok with Year 7 or even Year 6 levels. Or it may be be ahead of the average, say Year 10 or even Year 10A.

And the story for this young person is a lot more complicated than that. Maybe our Year 9 student is not managing at all well with Year 9 Number and Algebra, is racing ahead with Statistics and Probability but struggling with Measurement and Geometry. Her NAPLAN results are more or less near where they should be but her basic number skills are inadequate.

The problem for Arithmetika to solve

So given this unfortunate state of affairs, with all today's technology, shouldn't we be able to have every student studying at their own level? Building on what they know rather than on what they didn't understand last time round? And with no extra effort from the teacher? Wouldn't we like to have each student's practice tasks become easier or harder according to the student's responses?

Take a close look at the following diagram. It shows the connectivity between year levels of elements of basic number skills, NAPLAN skills and the three major strands of the Australian Curriculum colour-coded for convenience. This is an over-simplified diagram; in fact year levels range from K to 12 and there are around 30 or 40 components of the curriculum for each year level.

The black circles are the reality for our Year 9 student. Weak number skills, not too bad at NAPLAN, hopeless at Algebra, under-achieving at spatial stuff but cracking it with Statistics and Probability. The problem is, how to identify each student's position in each of the 30 or 40 study areas?

The Arithmetika solution

Arithmetika knows all about the connectivity between elements of the curriculum. There are hundreds of Arithmetika 'question templates' associated with each of the Content Descriptions of the maths curriculum and intelligent algorithms analyse student responses to choose questions precisely tailored to the students' needs. The questions are too hard? Here's something a little easier!

Watch a student take an adaptive assessment task on YouTube

Adaptive assessment - how it works in Arithmetika.

The teacher or tutor selects any number and combination of Content Descriptions to create adaptive assessment tasks. Arithmetika does all the work, delivering batches of pseudo-randomly generated questions. For example, suppose the class is embarking on the Statistics learning outcomes for Year 9. This means you will have to address ACMSP 228, 282 and 283. The teacher simply selects these three Content Descriptions, gives the selection some suitable name such as 'Year 9 Statistics, and assigns the task to the students. If the students struggle with this content, the task becomes easier, delivering questions from the equivalent outcomes in year 8. If the student is flying, on the other hand, they will next see questions from year 10.

Teachers can modify each assigned task at any time and change details such as which Content Descriptions to cover, the number of questions in each task and what percentages constitute success or failure . For example, you might want the students to be given just fifteen questions at a time; to progress to harder questions only if they achieve a five-point moving average of 80% and to an easier level if they are managing only 20%.

The teacher or tutor can monitor each student's progress in real time and from then deliver appropriate teaching material. It's as simple as that.