When thousands of people from government, civil society, affected communities, academia and the private sector gathered in Istanbul, Turkey recently for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit, a pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place.
"A pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place."
A new fund to better coordinate and deliver education in emergencies was launched, called "Education Cannot Wait."
"Education is typically at the periphery of emergency response efforts," says Gemma Terry a Community Manager for Social Innovation at Pearson.
"Normally, education receives around 2-percent of humanitarian aid," she says. "Shelter, food, and water are always at the top—for good reason."
"Now, more people are starting to see the importance of education in these conflict situations," Gemma says.
That's nearly a quarter of the world's school age children.
From that number, 75 million children—aged between 3 to 18 years old—are in desperate need of educational support.
The new education crisis fund Education Cannot Wait has already raised more than 80 million dollars from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Commission, and others.
UN education envoy Gordon Brown told reporters when the fund was announced:
“This is a lost generation we must help urgently. We live in a world where refugee needs are not temporary, with many spending more than a decade out of country. ... For too long we have neglected the education of young people in conflict zones, at the cost of making youth the recruits for terrorist groups and their parents the most likely to leave and seek a better future for their children in Europe or America."
"If children who have to leave their homes because of conflict are able to receive an education," Gemma Terry says, "the hope is that they're better equipped with the knowledge and skills to go back and rebuild their country."
"Finally, people are seeing how important education is in conflict zones," she says. "Finally, it's a priority."
Pearson is partnering with Save the Children for the ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and innovate new solutions to help improve the delivery of education in emergency and conflict-affected settings. As part of this partnership, Pearson and Save the Children worked together on advocacy activities at the World Humanitarian Summit to raise awareness of the urgency around improving education for children affected by conflict. LearnED wrote about this partnership in an earlier story, "Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees."
"All of us in education are concerned about better preparing students for the workplace," says LeeAnne Fisher, Assistant Vice President for Associations, Government, and Career Pathways at Pearson.
"Employers—even the statistics—tell us that there is a major skills and training gap," she says.
Consider the burgeoning field of sustainability—for undergraduates and graduates.
"Many four-year public colleges have already recognized that courses in sustainability across a variety of disciplines is a necessary component of academics," LeeAnne says.
"They understand its importance for students to apply the concepts to business, the trades, the hospitality industry, the culinary arts, even healthcare," she says. "Even companies now understand that sustainability is not just a socially positive movement, it's also profitable for the bottom line."
"But students taking courses in sustainability still graduate without the professional readiness to have an impact right away in the workplace," LeeAnne says.
A Smoother Employment Pathway
That's different for students at Everglades University in Boca Raton, Florida.
The school already had a robust sustainability program.
Now, through Pearson's partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the University now offers courses approved by the USGBC that offer successful graduates a foundation in the field of sustainability.
"And with over 700 business partners associated with the USGBC in Florida," LeeAnne says, "we've also paved an easier pathway to employment for these graduates."
A Bigger Coursework Footprint
"When we first started talking with our colleagues at Everglades University," LeeAnne says, "they figured they would apply these courses simply to their curriculum in construction.
"Over time, they decided to make sure ALL their students would take an introductory course in sustainability—from the construction management programs to environmental policy and management to business and alternative medicine," she says. "It's now a general education requirement."
Monika Kondura is a course instructor at Everglades who says "the content provided a nice foundation."
"The material was comprehensive, up-to-date and no student seemed to have problems understanding the content," she says.
An Easier, Better Way
"If you don't have a program like this in your college or university," LeeAnne says, "then a student has less options and preparation to step into the growing number of green jobs requiring sustainability education, training, and certification."
"Today's students know that they need better pathways to employers," LeeAnne says. "Grades don't carry the weight they once carried. Students—and employers—are looking for something that can set job applicants apart, like a professional certification."
"Rather than blaming or fixing," Kendra says, "the point to all of this is that there is a benefit to learning about the differences between how men and women engage with on another and with their jobs."
Be Gender Intelligent is designed to address a spectrum of workplace challenges. It tackles everything from gender intelligent performance reviews to office interactions to client work to promotions to team collaboration.
"This learning is different," Kendra says, "It is underpinned by neuroscience and borne in of very practical ways at work."
Kendra says this process helps people get "unstuck."
(Gender inequity) is a reality of where we find ourselves as modern workplaces, a problem that is complex and intricate, a quandary that neither men nor women alone can solve. It is also a challenge that no one company can fix, no matter how large, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how gender intelligent. It is a collective problem, and we're working to help offer a collective solution.
Learning that Pays Off
The Gender Intelligence Group, led by Barbara Annis, reports that learning about gender intelligence actually helps a company's bottom line:
"A leading credit card services company saw collections increase by 85-percent through changes in the way its call center approached clients."
"A west coast technology company increased the percentage of women on their sales team and saw the revenue with their small and medium size accounts grow by $850 million."
"A well-known financial services firm saw increased retention of female clients through using more gender intelligent language."
Behaviors That Begin in the Classroom
"The research into gender intelligence is not just about men and women at work," Kendra says. "It's also about how boys and girls learn in a classroom setting."
"A boy student might be staring into space, looking out a window," Kendra says. "Teachers might respond negatively to that this might just be his brain recharging. He may need that time to look out the window so that he can learn more effectively."
Advice to Parents
"It all begins with the understanding that our brains are different," Kendra says. "Ask kids about how they're thinking and feeling, as opposed to expecting them to see or behave in the world the way you see or behave in the world."
"It's about not trying to force young students into a tight box—and making our learning for them as flexible and agile as possible."
Nicholas is a couple of months away from graduation at the University of Toronto with a degree in political science.
Years earlier, Christian went straight to college out of high school.
Nicholas—after visiting a few colleges as a high school senior—told his parents one day: "I don't think I'm quite ready."
Talking About a Year Off
From her Pearson office in Toronto, Amanda recalls being skeptical at first.
"Neither his father nor I were on board," she says. "We were worried that he wouldn't ever go back to college."
"But after talking to him," Amanda says, "we began to understand that he had a plan. He was able to read himself better than us."
More Prepared for College
Nicholas had been a standout tennis player in high school. He'd even been offered a tennis scholarship to attend college.
"He wasn't sure if he was ready to dive in to tennis like he'd been doing," Amanda says. "He wanted to take some time off, work on his SAT scores, and think things through."
"He worked during his time before college and realized he'd rather coach tennis than play tennis," Amanda says. "So with new aspirations to study education and political science, he managed to get in to a great university and really apply himself in a way that I thought he never could."
Students Needing Clarity, With No Time to Find It
"There's such inertia for high school students to go to college," says Abby Falik, founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year. The organization offers high school graduates a solution to the inertia:
"It’s called a bridge year, a Global Citizen Year, which is an international immersion designed to give high school graduates perspective, confidence and purpose prior to college. A bridge year is a real world classroom – no walls, no textbooks…just life through a global lens."
"Without an experience like this," Abby says, "so many students have no time to pause and reflect and understand who they are and what they care about."
"They get to the end of college," she says, "and they're still unclear about what to do next."
The Global Citizen Year Approach
"I hate the term 'gap year,'" Abby says. "It's not a gaping hole in someone's life. We need to reframe the metaphor to better reflect what the year, when used constructively, can be: a 'bridge year' or a 'launching pad.'"
"We all have a comfort zone," Abby says. "We have a panic zone as well. In between the two is the 'stretch zone' where real learning happens."
"For a lot of kids, being stretched is simply getting out of the classroom which inevitably leads to questions about who we are and who we're becoming," she says.
"The unifying theme for our programs is that kids get the most out of their bridge year if they start with the end in mind," Abby says. "What are the questions they want to answer at the end of the year?"
"And at the end of the year," she says, "we want them to arrive at a whole new set of questions to guide their college education—and beyond."
Bundling Bridge Years Into College Degree Programs
Abby hopes that this kind of approach to bridge years can be a part of re-thinking higher education.
"I'm convinced my kids will not go to a traditional four-year college," she says.
"How can we integrate deep experiential learning into higher education?" Abby asks. "Can the concept of a bridge year be bundled in to what leads up to a college degree?"
Abby says this approach has to be designed to address traditional criticisms about access and privilege.
"That's why 80-percent of our Fellows get financial aid and a third of them are given full, need-based funding," Abby says. "
"The whole system has to benefit all kinds of students."
Needing Time to Grow Up
For Amanda Murray, she's equally proud of both her sons.
"Don't think that Nicholas' brother, Christian, didn't have his own zig zags along the way," Amanda says. "They've both been successful even though they've done things very differently."
"Both of them needed—and found the time—to pause and grow up in their own ways," she says.
"The vast majority of colleges are still offering an education designed a long time ago to meet the challenges of the last century. The challenges of this century are different, but most colleges are finding it difficult to respond."
"Many of them are still telling students what they have available, and students have the choice of taking it or leaving it."
"But this university is a pioneer. It doesn’t decide for you what you’re going to get; it asks you what you need. Based on your answers, you and your university are re-designing higher education together."
A New Kind of Excellent Education
"You are keeping the best parts of the old model and experimenting with promising new approaches and technologies. You are finding creative ways to meet the challenges of this century—the challenges that you face in your day-to-day lives."
"You are the ones who said, Wait! I have eyes. I see a way to connect my education to my career path. I can be interested in earning money and in indulging my curiosity, in enriching my knowledge, in learning more about the world around me."
"You are the ones who said, Wait! Why do I have to sit in a specific room in a specific building for a specific amount of time? I have the guts to use new tools to learn in more convenient and dynamic ways—and, by the way, I’ll finish when I’m actually finished, not when the clock runs out."
"You are the ones who said, Wait! I don’t have to go into debt for the rest of my life to get an excellent education. I can afford to take care of my responsibilities now and train my mind for the future."
'A School is Where People Learn'
"I called you pioneers, because what you are doing is daring and new. But it’s more than that. You are not off on an island being different by yourselves. The world is paying attention, and starting to follow your example."
"So you are pioneers—and you are leaders, too. You are leading us to a new future in which a high-quality education is affordable, convenient, and relevant. And in which it is more personal, too ... not every student learns in the same way, and we need to bring learning to people, not people to learning."
"A school, a university, is not a building, it is a place where people learn."
Through the Open Ideas at Pearson series, Pearson has been collaborating with some of the best minds in education to showcase forward-looking, independent insights on the big, unanswered questions in education. The latest report, "Decoding Adaptive," published in collaboration with the team at EdSurge, is the culmination of six months of research, interviews, and analysis on the current state of digital adaptive learning tools. This story is a summary of that report.
A Helpful Starting Point: What Is An Adaptive Learning Tool?
Not all learning technology is adaptive.
The "Decoding Adaptive" report offers a simple definition of 'adaptive learning' technology because the phrase means different things to different practitioners:
"We define adaptive learning tools as education technologies that can respond to a student's interactions in real-time by automatically providing the student with individual support. ... Adaptive learning tools collect specific information about individual students' behaviors by tracking how they answer questions. The tool then responds to each student by changing the learning experience to better suit that person's needs, based on their unique and specific behaviors and answers."
"Teachers are increasingly attempting to reach all of their students, each of whom have distinct learning needs, with the right learning experience at the right time," writes education innovator Michael B. Horn in the report's foreword. "Having effective software turbocharges those efforts and can provide a realistic pathway to accomplish that goal."
"The tools, however, are not a panacea," he writes. "It's unlikely that a single tool will ever be able to take over a student's education ... helping students own their learning, make decisions, become lifelong learners, and develop their metacognitive skills."
Catching Up and 'Unshackled'
The report profiles two schools using adaptive learning technology.
Students there spend up to a quarter of their day (50 to 80 minutes in total) using online tools. In one second-grade classroom, a teacher spends 15 to 30 minutes with each of his students every Friday to talk through their progress and problems uncovered through their adaptive learning work.
At the second school, Joseph Weller Elementary School in Milpitas, California, 40-percent of the students are English language learners. A large portion of them perform at proficient or better levels, according to California standards.
"For us, the decision to use adaptive technology was about helping underachievers catch up," district superintendent Cary Matsuoka told the report's researchers. "And it was about helping kids take responsibility for their own learning."
"Just as gratifying," Matsuoka says, "is watching gifted students race ahead, unshackled for the first time in their school careers."
How These Tools Do the Adapting
"Decoding Adaptive" also documents EdSurge's research to understand how and when adaptive learning tools actually change a student's learning experience.
They found that the way a tool adapts can be categorized in three ways:
"When a student makes an error, tools with adaptive content respond with feedback and hints based on the student's specific misunderstanding. ... They also take individual skills and break them down into smaller pieces, depending on how a student responds, without changing the overall sequence of skills."
"These tools change the questions a student sees, based on his or her response to the previous question. The difficulty of questions will increase as a student answers them accurately. If the student struggles, the questions will get easier."
"Tools with 'adaptive sequence' have a lot going on behind the scenes. These tools are continuously collecting and analyzing student data to automatically change what a student sees next; from the order of skills a student works on, to the type of content a student receives."
"If a learner was not in class during a period when a particular skill was introduced and years later was learning a new skill that built on that prior knowledge, that learner would struggle. Adaptive sequencing tools could help that student go back and find this gap and learn this content first, rather than in the same sequence as everyone else."
According to the report, the edtech market is flooded by tools that offer, or claim to offer, adaptive learning features.
Its researchers road-tested 24 different adaptive learning tools. The findings are helpful for educators assessing technologies for use in their classrooms:
"It's one thing to recommend a skill, but it's another to recommend a skill and the best piece of content for learning that skill. Of the tools we researched that have adaptive sequencing, only 30% take the extra step of recommending content that's proven to be the best for students."
"Answering a question correctly is important, but so is the process it took to get there. Some adaptive tools can collect data on how students learn and use it to create a more complex picture of students' abilities."
"One of the benefits of large amounts of data on how students learn is being able to compare how educators think students learn, to how they actually learn. One way that adaptive tools are helping to do this is by capturing the order of skills that students are actually using to learn content."
What This Means for the Classroom
The students entering America’s classrooms come from more diverse backgrounds and bring a wider set of needs and abilities than ever before in history. By contrast, funding for schools grows modestly at best. In most segments of life, when we’ve tried to do more with the same (or fewer) resources, we’ve invented tools to help."
"Adaptive learning is alluring ... because it's aligned to an educator's ultimate goal of helping every student achieve his or her maximum potential through differentiation," the report continues.
"There are also many challenges .... Most adaptive tools are used in learning environments that are led by teachers, which means they need to be able to work in harmony with teachers as the leader."
Adds Michael B. Horn in his foreword:
"This technology can accelerate our knowledge of what learning experiences work best ... so that educators can adapt to a reality in which they can help all children find their passions and reach their fullest potential."
Adam Bauserman has taught in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and in college. He has teaching expertise in general education, special education, and gifted education.
"I got my first teaching job years ago when my predecessor had to leave school because students had poisoned his coffee with cleaning fluid," Adam says.
"More than half of the students in that class were failing at the time. By the end of the year, we had a less than 5-percent failure rate," he says.
Today, Adam is an implementation specialist with Pearson—helping teachers grapple with behavioral challenges in the classroom.
"Doctor Behave" offers periodic webinars on various topics.
"My goal is for participants to take at least one thing away from the training," Adam says. "And to have some fun during the process."
Making the Most of Classroom Data
Adam is leading an upcoming webinar he's calling "Year in Review: Making the Most of Your Data."
"People focus so much of their time on student academic data, behavioral data often gets pushed to the side," Adam says.
"Teachers are also unaware of how much data they have about student behavior," he says.
Adam helps educators with tips on how to compile the data, organize the data—and make sense of it.
"Take fighting, for example," Adam says. "Pull all the incidents into one data set and pin down 'Where is it happening?' and 'When is it happening?' Seeing correlations in the data often help educators develop successful responses to these behaviors, especially when they often seem so hard to fix."
The Top Three Behavioral Challenges
Adam recently polled teachers about the toughest behavioral problems in their classrooms. The top three—and his suggestions about how to get them out of your classroom—are listed below.
"The bottom line," Adam says, "is that inside the four walls of a classroom, teachers need to be prepared to bend a little bit when they're thinking about rules and expectations."
"If rules are set in stone," he says, "they get pushed—and the walls come down."
"I became a teenage mother in high school and almost gave up on my dreams completely. However, my teachers showed me the many options that were still available if I continued my education. These positive experiences at school inspired me to become a teacher. ... I entered this profession with a passion for the work that I do and an understanding that my work would extend beyond the classroom and into the world."
Jahana teaches history at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut.
A 12-year veteran of the teaching profession, Jahana has done a lot of work outside the classroom "with the goal of increasing awareness and interest in education as a career." It's an effort to create a "future pipeline of teachers."
"While the focus should always remain on students, recruiting, supporting and retaining culturally competent and diverse educators cannot be overlooked. Teachers, administrators and school faculty play a key role in student success."
A Shortage of Experienced Teachers
"Experts tell us that on average, it takes four to five years for teachers to feel comfortable in the classroom and to become proficient in their teaching," says Dr. Kathy McKnight, Principal Director of Research at Pearson.
"We're also seeing 40- to 50-percent of new teachers leaving the profession before they get to that five-year mark," she says.
Last fall, for example, hundreds of principals across Washington State who were surveyed talked of a teacher shortage "crisis." Several other states, including California, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kansas, are scrambling to staff their schools with qualified teachers.
This has obvious consequences for the goal of getting an effective teacher in front of every student.
"So many teachers feel like they're not treated as professionals," Kathy says. "They feel over-managed, they're not rewarded for their expertise, and they don't feel like they have a voice in the education system."
"There are lots of opportunities for teachers to feel more professional and more valued," Kathy says.
"They can be content specialists, pedagogy specialists, technology specialists," she says. "Some can be included in district or state education policy decisions. And others can take on research, or work with policymakers."
"All of this helps teachers grow as teachers and leaders," Kathy says.
It also helps retain teachers who might have otherwise left.
"In our interviews with teachers for our study," Kathy says, "a good number of them said that the opportunities they had as a result of the career advancement model at their school made them decide to stay in the profession, whereas before, they had been contemplating leaving."
New Generations, New Definitions of Teaching
Attracting future teachers to the classroom—and keeping them in the classroom—means new approaches to recruitment and retention.
"Generation Y is expected to make up half of the teaching workforce by 2020," Kathy says.
"Unlike prior generations, this cohort is less likely to take on careers without opportunity to advance," she says. "So we're thinking about new flexibilities in the way work is structured to meet the needs of the younger generations, like splitting up the week or the day between two teachers."
"There's also a cohort of potential teachers I've heard referred to as 'sunsetters,'" Kathy says. "These are people who have reached the end of another career and now want to teach. How do we bring them in to the profession? We need to think about how we make them part of the conversation as well."
The Value of Feeling Valued
"I think about my own profession as a researcher," Kathy says. "I love doing what I do. I feel like it's valued by my colleagues. I have an expertise that people need. People trust me to do good work. Why would we think teachers wouldn't want the same?"