How Parents, Teachers, and the General Public View Learner Variability - Digital Promise

How Parents, Teachers, and the General Public View Learner Variability

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May 21, 2019 | By and

At least 75 percent of public school parents, teachers, and the American public believe most students are capable of reaching high levels of educational achievement, according to a survey conducted by Langer Research Associates of New York for Digital Promise Global’s Learner Variability Project.

Approximately 8 in 10 of those surveyed also say that learners vary by way of their personal background and knowledge, their health and psychological wellbeing, and how they think, among other things. And while they express an overwhelming preference for approaches tailored to students’ learner variability—their strengths, challenges, social and emotional abilities, and background—only 19 to 29 percent of those surveyed say most students are reaching high levels of academic achievement today.

The survey, Learning in the 21st Century: How the American Public, Parents, and Teachers View Students’ Potential and Their Learning Experience, is the first in a series we plan to conduct to explore how teachers, parents, and the general public view learning in order to help students reach their potential. Our goal is to share results and use the findings to inform efforts to ensure all students have powerful learning experiences.

Key findings from our survey

The study surveyed a representative sample of 1,389 U.S. adults, including 550 public school parents, and an additional 516 public school teachers on a range of issues related to learning, including the capability of students to achieve at high levels, learner variability, tailored approaches to learning, use of educational technology (edtech), and what teachers rely on to do their work. Findings from the report include:

  • In a key result of statistical modeling, recognizing learner variability and believing most students are capable of high levels of academic achievement are the strongest predictors of thinking that all students can benefit from tailored instruction.
  • Seeing greater learner variability, both between students and across subjects, also predicts support for the use of education technology (edtech).
  • Majorities of those surveyed say edtech improves students’ learning experiences by helping students discover new information and ideas, find new learning strategies, and develop organizational and task management skills.
  • When asked what they rely on to support their work, teachers note their own experience at 96 percent, their instincts at 90 percent, professional development at 68 percent, and academic research at 53 percent.
  • While relatively few teachers report that they rely on academic research in doing their work, those who do are much more likely to be very comfortable using edtech.

Overall, findings suggest that fostering awareness of learner variability and student potential is likely to encourage further support for tailored instruction and edtech. One of the principles of Powerful Learning at Digital Promise focuses on the need for learning to be personal and tailored to the variability in each learner. The findings from this survey underscore the importance of understanding the variability in each learner and providing a path for personal and accessible learning experiences in order to help each student rise to meet their potential.

Next steps: further exploration in a follow-up survey

We are currently developing a follow-up survey that will provide an even deeper understanding and more context on Learning in the 21st Century.

For more information on learner variability:

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