Adaptive Homework

All students can learn mathematics, but some kids take a little longer than others. The purpose of homework is to provide diverse learners with the kind of practice that reinforces the skills that were taught in class, but for some students it can feel more like a test (especially if they get a bunch of "wrong answer" feedback). We want homework to give students a chance to demonstrate their learning, and our goal is for homework to end on a positive note, but we recognize that some students will need more support than others.

ADAPTIVE HOMEWORK (AH) is a feature that allows a teacher to better respond to students' struggles. AH allows a teacher to make assigned homework adaptive by better supporting those students who are struggling and by giving them another chance to demonstrate their own learning. This means a students who does not get a math problem correct on their first attempt, can be given a chance to solve a similar, but not the same, problem (labeled in the image as a "Redo" problem). It can change homework from feeling less like a test into feeling more like a learning opportunity.

Figure 1: Redo Report - a screen shot of a the “Redo” report that would be created for ADAPTIVE HOMEWORK.

In Figure 1 above, you can see the teacher assigned three math problems A, B, and C. For each problem, there is a "Redo" problem for students who don't get it right the first time. Every time you see a green check in the columns labeled "Redo," a student was able to demonstrate learning. On the flip side, the red "X" in the redo column represents an issue the teacher will want to address the next day in class. In the above diagram we can see that "Lost" Luke needs a lot of help, and that Problem C really needs to reviewed again since 60% of the class did not succeed in getting the problem type correct.

Now let's make this more complicated.

In Figure 2 below, we added three extra rows to demonstrate a few other types of student outcomes. During the COVID pandemic and onset of widespread remote learning, the number of students in America who competely "check out" is likely to soar. With remote learning in mind, it is even more important to help teachers recognize which students are checking out and why. In the below figure, "Discouraged" Donna and "Checking out" Charlie represent students who give up before they start, and the teacher will want to intervene quickly with these students.

In the last row, "Minimal Effort" Emma represents a student who attempted the three main problems, but chose not to tackle the "Redo" problems. For a case like Emma, we envision multiple options from which a teacher can select to respond but we also recognize that computer responses can easily overload a student with more work. Therefore, one option will allow a teacher to give his or her students the autonomy to come back to class and ask questions themselves. In fact we envision a system that allows teachers to assign homework in which "Redo" problems are due twenty-four hours after the original assignment, enabling a student to show completion of the skill after his or her teacher reviewed it the next morning. In this way, students can truly show their struggles have been resolved and learning has occurred.

Figure 2: Redo Report - responding to different kinds of student outcomes.

Grouping Students Together to Easily Recognize Who Needs Help

Teachers have limited time to help a lot of kids! If a teacher has 25 (or more) students, the table if Figure 2 will get to be complicated very quickly. In Figure 3 below, our hope is that by grouping students into categories, a teacher's attention can be quickly drawn to students who need help.

To make this example more realistic, let's imagine the following:

  1. Succeeding = Students are learning, they either got the first problem correct or they got a redo problem correct

  2. Higher Effort But Struggling= Students are putting in the effort, but still not getting a redo correct

  3. Lower Effort = Students who eventually gave up on on learning the skill

  4. Absent = Student who did not even attempt all of the problems

Note that the exact details on what qualifies as lower vs. higher amount of effort will differ by teachers as reasonable people can disagree as to how many times a student needs to try a math problem before giving up. In ASSISTments Skill Builders, if a student does 10 problems without getting 3 right in a row, we default to a message that tells them go talk to their teacher (and they can try again tomorrow). We know that students sometimes need help from a human being, and it's not humane to keep giving students the same set of hint messages on the 11th problem if they didn't learn it the first 10 times. Our goal is for a student to learn persistence (to be gritty is a good thing) but we also have to be realistic and not assume that all students can succeed without teacher intervention. We believe that sometimes the students will need the intervention of the teacher before eventually succeeding.


Figure 3: Grouping students together

Highlight Which Students are Changing

Figure 4 (below) shows changes in student progress at-a-glance. Since change is gradual (most students don't experience a drastic about-face in behavior or learning) it's important to highlight change from one day to the next. Teachers need to know 1) who is improving so they can "praise them while they are being good" and 2) who is declining and needs an intervention. Sadly, during the COVID pandemic, we expect that there will more kids "declining" and we want to help teachers quickly recognize that change.

Figure 4: Showing change in progress