Discussion – The role of AI in schools: the personalisation of learning and marking of student work

Discussion – The role of AI in schools: the personalisation of learning and marking of student work

This content is an excerpt from a Digital Live: Evolving Education discussion on The role of AI in schools, hosted by Pearson.

This session explored the role of AI in schools, with a particular focus on its application for personalisation of learning, in marking and generating insight about student work.

The expert panel explored the positive impact this technology can have as well as addressing some of the key concerns educators may have. This session was chaired by Lucy Chowns, Senior Strategy Manager, Pearson UK Schools and is for teachers working in primary, secondary schools, and colleges.

Rebecca Howarth, Pearson
There are a lot of products that promise related personalised learning by providing pathways through content for students, it’s often called adaptive software using a diagnostic test to place a learner on a pathway and then adapt either the content or assessment.

The premise is that students will feel more confident in their learning and achieve more, because it’s pitched just at the right level for them. This type of adaptive practice is often used as extra support or stretch, homework as well as intervention. So I’d be really interested in learning from you how AI can best support personalisation for learners.

Rob Percival, Blutick
Sure, thank you, I think the content itself within any personalised system is absolutely critical. The ability of modern systems to decide with that really high level of accuracy, which piece of content the user should go on to next is massive and can make a huge difference.

It also is critical that the content itself is great, personalisation is no good unless the things that the students are actually doing are really high quality.

A way that AI can provide advantages for students and personalisation beyond just an activity, that Blutick is focused on, is the ability for a system to use that intelligence to provide feedback to the student as they’re working.

As a maths teacher, I spent most of my lessons wandering around the classroom while kids were learning, prodding them in the right direction. They would get stuck, they would put up their hand, I would say, oh, it looks like you may have forgotten your x, or you may have missed this out, or did you notice that bit of the question, directing them and nudging them in the right direction.

That was about 70% of my job as a teacher. That was where I made the real difference, asking just the right question, to nudge them forward without giving them the answer.

I think computers can do that, that’s what we’re doing with Blutick. We are looking at each individual student, and we’re giving them immediate feedback as they make mistakes while they’re working through their maths problems. We are nudging them in the right direction, we are using AI in a very similar way to adaptive software to improve that feedback for each individual user.

The vision for the future is that each student gets their own personalised teacher. An AI teacher who knows that student extremely well, can give them the right feedback to get them through each question that they are working on.

Combining live feedback with an adaptive system that then takes them from the right question to the next, is to me, the ultimate in educational software. Those are the two problems that we’re trying to solve right now.

I am really excited to see where both will go. The speed at which I think students will be able to learn when you combine AI feedback with an adaptive journey is really exciting.

Lucy Chowns, Pearson
Rob, for somebody who is using AI in your product, it would be interesting to get your take on the benefits offered. We have received questions about how easy it is to use AI. Perhaps you could give us an insight into how this actually works?

Rob Percival, Blutick
I will focus on our assessment tool, which we’ve been developing alongside Pearson over the last few months.

We have now delivered over 5,000 exams with it. The key thing that it does that most people or teachers might not think is possible is mark every bit of working that a student does.

We are not replacing a traditional GCSE exam with a multiple choice or a simple drag and drop exam, we’re replacing it with the identical exam online.

The students complete the GCSE maths questions, in the way that they would on a written exam. They put all of their workings in, they can put in diagrams, they can draw as if they’re doing transformations or they can choose if it is a multiple-choice question such as in a AQA exam.

The thing that pleased me as we were developing it, is that the accuracy of the system, it’s 98.5% accurate compared to a human examiner.

There are two ways in which I think it makes a big difference:
One, is allowing students to take control of their learning and revision.

When I was a teacher of Year 11 students, the last two terms were mostly spent completing exams in some way or another. We would work through past papers, some of them in exam conditions, some of them together, some of them at home. Then I would mark those, give them feedback and we’d move on, that was the most effective way of learning for those students.

That is very time intensive for a teacher, and maybe the student does not want to wait a week for the teacher to be able to mark those and give them back.

One big advantage of Blutick is that a student can take an exam and they get instant feedback. They can immediately see and access a tailored course based on their performance in that exam. The questions that they have performed worse on the system will suggest those topics for them to practice, they then can repeat the process again independently to continue improving.

Two, for teachers it provides that crucial visibility of what students are doing.

Teachers can see every piece of work that students have entered and give students feedback from that. They don’t have to carry around any physical papers, they can simply log in and see every exam that the students have completed and go back to that whenever they want to.

Teachers receive a range of different summaries, either by student, so they can see in detail what the student needs to practice, or by class. They can see, for example, we really need to talk about simultaneous equations, because as a group you don’t know how to solve them or whatever it might be.

Teachers can tweak the marking, so students can still receive fully accurate marking from a teacher and teachers can get full visibility of what the students have entered.
The key point is the time saved is massive, because the vast majority of it has been marked already.

It is not complicated, it’s not difficult to set up, you simply create an exam session, the kids do the exams, and you get the results.

It is really powerful, both in terms of time savings for teachers, what the students can do independently and the feedback that both students and teachers receive.

Catch up: You can watch the entire discussion on YouTube here or sign up for future Pearson Digital Live Events here.