The Knewton Blog

Our monthly newsletter features edtech and product updates, with a healthy dose of fun Knerd news.

The Adaptive Advantage: Reducing the Performance Gap

Posted in Adaptive Learning on January 20, 2016 by

Earlier Knewton research looked at how, on average, students performed better in courses with Knewton-powered adaptive assignments than in those without.

Further analysis shows that Knewton-powered adaptive assignments for struggling students narrow the gap between them and high-performing students on subsequent assignments. Closing this gap is one of the biggest challenges instructors can face in the classroom.

In “Reducing the Gap: How Adaptive Follow-Ups Help Struggling Students,” Hillary Green-Lerman and Kevin Wilson of Knewton looked at 48,202 students who used an online homework tool for college-level science textbooks in the spring of 2014. Beyond ordinary homework assignments, students who didn’t show mastery of the concepts they were learning received adaptive follow-up assignments powered by Knewton. These adaptive assignments present a personalized sequence of questions designed to address each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

Our research team found that students who were assigned an adaptive follow-up after struggling on a first assignment showed improvements of between four and 12 percentage points on subsequent assignments relative to their classmates who did not have adaptive follow-up assignments.

Students with a lower score will have more room to improve than high-performing ones. So Green-Lerman and Wilson corrected for initial differences in grade distributions between the higher- and lower-performing students. When taking this correction into account, they still see an average improvement of three points, and as much as eight points:

The adaptive advantage in higher education

The online homework tool discussed in this study makes use of only a small portion of what Knewton can do to improve learning outcomes. Knewton’s research team continues to validate the efficacy of adaptive learning, and plans to continue to share its findings.

To read the full study, sign up below to download “Reducing the Gap.”