How learner profiles can help students catch up at school

How learner profiles can help students catch up at school

Learner profiles have the potential to significantly improve the quality of teaching and learning in Australia, a new study shows.

A learner profile is a digital assessment tool that provides detailed information about a student’s strengths, learning preferences, and capabilities. It supports students by helping them identify the learning skills they already have and those they need and monitor their own progress.

The world-first research by the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L) at the University of South Australia is in response to declining rates of literacy and numeracy in Australian schools and comes amid federal and state government efforts to improve teacher training.

Using current student data, researchers from C3L have been creating individual student learning profiles – real-time assessments of each student’s learning against curriculum requirements, as well as social and emotional wellbeing, extracurricular activities, and study behaviours – all presented in an easy-to-access online ‘dashboard’.

It is hoped the new learner profiles and dashboard will provide teachers with an easy-to-use, quick reference tool to ensure all students – especially disadvantaged students – are appropriately supported and positioned for success.

“Strategies to improve teaching quality are paramount in Australia, particularly given the overall decline in reading and mathematics,” Dr Vitomir Kovanović from UniSA’s C3L said.

“Yet, as many parents will attest, student success does not only rely upon academic achievement – it also embraces student interests, goals, and social and emotional wellbeing.”

Dr Kovanović says that for teachers, the challenge is often time and resources – while they strive to deliver the best teaching, one-on-one support “is near impossible”.

“This research makes it one step closer. By looking beyond static, traditional grade-based methods, and by using real-time student data across a range of measures, we’re able to create individual profiles for each student,” he said.

“These profiles will show how a student is learning at any point in time, and when they’re plotted onto our dashboard, will help teachers quickly identify which children need additional support or interventions, and precisely when they need them.”

In this way, says Dr Kovanović, teachers can respond to children’s needs in a timely and appropriate manner based on their individual profile.

The other lead researcher working on the study was Dr Rebecca Marrone. She says the goal is to help teachers and students without adding extra work.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has imposed restrictions on so many aspects of our lives, and for a lot of schools, the response has been a quick shift to blended and online learning,” Dr Marrone said.

“So, we now have far more data, collected in real time. But how many schools are leveraging this data?”

Dr Marrone said the learner profile project “draws on all possible data sources to create single place for collated student information.”

“This could seriously change the way teachers support students. And the added beauty of the tool is that it aims to alleviate teachers’ workloads, not add to them.”