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Using Adaptive Learning Technologies to Personalize Instruction to Student Interests: The Impact of Relevant Contexts on Performance and Learning Outcomes
ARTICLE

Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 105, Number 4, ISSN 0022-0663

Abstract

Adaptive learning technologies are emerging in educational settings as a means to customize instruction to learners' background, experiences, and prior knowledge. Here, a technology-based personalization intervention within an intelligent tutoring system (ITS) for secondary mathematics was used to adapt instruction to students' personal interests. We conducted a learning experiment where 145 ninth-grade Algebra I students were randomly assigned to 2 conditions in the Cognitive Tutor Algebra ITS. For 1 instructional unit, half of the students received normal algebra story problems, and half received matched problems personalized to their out-of-school interests in areas such as sports, music, and movies. Results showed that students in the personalization condition solved problems faster and more accurately within the modified unit. The impact of personalization was most pronounced for 1 skill in particular--writing symbolic equations from story scenarios--and for 1 group of students in particular--students who were struggling to learn within the tutoring environment. Once the treatment had been removed, students who had received personalization continued to write symbolic equations for normal story problems with increasingly complex structures more accurately and with greater efficiency. Thus, we provide evidence that interest-based interventions can promote robust learning outcomes--such as transfer and accelerated future learning--in secondary mathematics. These interest-based connections may allow for abstract ideas to become perceptually grounded in students' experiences such that they become easier to grasp. Adaptive learning technologies that utilize interest may be a powerful way to support learners in gaining fluency with abstract representational systems.

Citation

Walkington, C.A. (2013). Using Adaptive Learning Technologies to Personalize Instruction to Student Interests: The Impact of Relevant Contexts on Performance and Learning Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 932-945. Retrieved July 22, 2019 from .

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