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Reiterative Enquiry-based Adaptive (REAL) Learning
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Reiterative Enquiry-based Adaptive Learning
Matt Leuchtmann

Often the best way to understand pedagogy is to trace it back to its roots. Reiterative Enquiry-based Adaptive Learning (REAL) is the product of over a decade of experience constructing and implementing differentiated, computer facilitated educational environments with students spanning the entire spectrum of K-12 learner. REAL learning is an amalgamation of elements derived from application of best practice with k-12 cross categorical, regular and gifted education students. Research based practices developed by Carol Ann Tomlinson, John Dewey, E. Paul Torrance, Robert Marzano, Joseph Renzulli, Donald Treffinger, Howard Garner, Albert Costa and most recently David Kelley, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe have been included in the design of REAL education. Differentiated Instruction, Project Based Learning (PBL), Future Problem Solving (FPS), Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Tiered Instruction, Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI), Habits of Mind, Design Thinking and Understanding by Design (UbD) have each contributed to this innovative approach to blended learning.

My classroom experience began at ACE Learning Centers in St. Louis, Missouri. This company contracts with local school districts to handle at-risk student populations. Since 2001 they've operated off campus computer facilitated learning centers that utilize PLATO learning software. In working with students and the software I quickly became aware that the program alone was not enough to meet individual student needs. I began designing activities that allowed students to extend their learning beyond the parameters of content introduced on the computer. This was the beginning of my experience with adaptive digital learning, differentiated instruction and project based learning. The growth many of these at-risk students were able to achieve was phenomenal. Observation of student achievement in this type of blended learning environment inspired me to seek certification in K-12 special education.

From there I started working with middle school students with varied disabilities. Through this experience I began to understand and apply instructional strategies that would meet students where they were - regardless of disability. Formative and summative assessments were used to determine student weaknesses and strengths. Instruction was then prescribed through a tiered learning model that used differentiated instruction and assessment through MI in the PBL model. All of this was facilitated through application of digital assessments and resources. Results were once again impressive, and many students were released from services. Success with the differentiated PBL nature of my classroom eventually led to an opportunity to specialize in gifted education.

While working as a gifted specialist I was introduced to CPS, FPS, Design Thinking and UbD. PBL, Tiered instruction, MI theory and differentiation blended within a digital 1 to 1 environment leading to remarkable real world results. I was given autonomy to create a gifted program from the ground up. The shift in focus from content to process based standards was facilitated through assessment of state and NCATE process standards, Habits of Mind and 21st Century Skills. An emphasis on real world, futuristic, creative problem-solving led to development of a curriculum designed to guide students through the design process in a manner that allowed them to collaborate toward innovation and invention of ideas and products. Design Thinking applied through elements of the Understanding by Design model help further refine the REAL education experience. Rigor and relevance were natural outcomes of these experiences, and a majority of the students involved left ready for both college and career.

REAL learning has been forged in the trenches of our modern day classrooms, and has had a powerful impact on many students over the years, but what is REAL education? Throughout an educators career they begin to understand what works, and what doesn't. From there the concepts and principles they apply begin to meld into essential elements of their craft. These essential elements are enquiry driven, which when appropriately applied, are continually in beta and should always be open to iteration and adaptation. These principles combined within the blended learning environment enhance an educators ability to exponentially impact student achievement. The nature of my experience has proven that in order to reach students across the spectrum learning should focus on three primary elements: reiteration, enquiry and adaptation.

Regardless of student ability, the process of reiteration is essential to understanding and application of ideas, concepts and processes. Reiteration literally means to say or do something again, often to excess. For the educator this may mean providing key concepts multiple times for a struggling student, or it could mean revisiting design and problem-solving processes for those students who move quickly beyond fundamental concepts. It also applies to the educator's experience with individual students. Once an individual student profile is outlined, the educator should be monitoring the effectiveness of their strategies and providing individualized constructive feedback. The task of implementing this type of reiteration is daunting to most educators, but the tools of e-learning are now available to make truly differentiated instruction a reality. The most effective e-learning tools should provide easy access to quality content, assessments and intervention strategies that allow reiteration throughout the learning experience. Reiteration allows both students and educators learn that failure leads to success.

All meaningful learning is inspired by curiosity. It's commonly accepted that inquiry denotes an investigation, and enquiry denotes a question. Both are key elements of REAL learning; however, all investigation begins with an essential question, which is why the model is Enquiry-based. A culture of curiosity is at the core of all successful project/problem based classrooms. It's the difference between learning experiences that inspire, and those that fall flat. Creativity is taught through fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. Students learn there's no one right answer when you apply creative curiosity, and that by deferring judgment they can access the full depths of both understanding and curiosity. Collaboration throughout the learning process teaches students to piggy back ideas, and to hitchhike off the understanding of others. They learn that by asking questions that empathize with others experiences they can begin to gain understanding that often leads to generation of highly efficient solutions.

Adaptive learning technologies are best applied in the context of blended learning environments. In fact, an attitude of adaptation is essential to individualized education. The idea behind adaptive education is that if a student progresses easily through materials, more rigorous experiences must be provided, and likewise if a student is struggling with a concept, adaptations are made to the content that help students plug holes in their learning. Technological advancements have made management of differentiated content a reality. Students can take diagnostic assessments that provide individualized learning profiles. Ease of access to digital resources allows for both remediation and acceleration depending on student need. Learning analytics are available to provide instant feedback on a wide variety of inputs. This information can then be used to modify intervention strategies, and determine individual student achievement.

The Infusion Matrix facilitator manager was built for educators, by an educator. The interface allows teachers to flexibly create digital lesson plans, projects, courses and assessments. The facilitator utilizes flexible lesson templates to add content, resources, standards, objectives and skills. These are then affiliated with activities, products, resources and assessments within the plan. Lessons are grouped into projects, and projects group together to form courses. Associated products, rubrics and assessments within the course form a relationship between the student, facilitator and database. This allows facilitators to assess and evaluate students individually as their data generates individual student profiles. The profile can then be used to determine by standard, objective or skill if the student needs remediation – DOES NOT MEET, moves to the next concept – MEETS, or is provided with more self directed projects – EXCEEDS. Facilitators can then utilize the IM Learning Quest feature to prescribe learning based on the required intervention.

Through IM Learning Analytics students, facilitators and administrators have direct access to individual student learning profiles, as well as facilitator course profiles. Professional Learning Communities will be able to compare data and use the findings to inform best practice. Student profiles will follow individuals throughout their Infusion Matrix experience, which means facilitators and administrators will know where students are regardless of grade level, or student location. School districts needing to reestablish accreditation have access to the best lessons, projects and courses within IM. Lessons and projects are crowdsourced, rated and user approved. This gives facilitators more time to focus on high quality, individualized direct instruction. Feedback provided through the analytics may then validate strategies, or provide insight for adaptation.

Challenges can also be created by approved IM contributors. Facilitators then create relevant projects to help students complete challenges. This feature provides an opportunity for real world interactions with professionals from around the world. Contributors can submit challenges that provide the perspective and resources necessary to complete the challenge. Facilitators organize lessons to support the challenge. These lessons combine to guide instruction through the challenges. The customizable contributor template utilizes PBL principles to help contributors develop content for students and facilitators. Approved projects allow students from around the world to collaborate and problem solve contributor challenges.

Infusion Matrix is REAL education. The design concept for development of Infusion was guided by REAL pedagogy. IM was designed with a student first mindset. Our goal is to harness the flexibility and power of digital tools to increase student achievement. Using the tools of interactive digital environments students will understand that learning is reiterative. Through this principle they will learn that failure is not a bad thing, but rather another opportunity to learn and do. By establishing a culture of empathy, collaboration, creativity, curiosity and respect students will begin to experience real world learning that takes them beyond classroom walls. Through feedback and assessment students will understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and as a result will be provided with multiple opportunities to achieve. We want the student to learn by doing. To gain understanding through application. To revolutionize education from the inside out.


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