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Adaptive learning is seen by its advocates as a ‘game-changer’, something that will revolutionize learning (including language learning), making it more economical, more efficient and more personalized. Still a largely unfamiliar term to most language teachers, it is already a central concern to large educational providers, such as universities and chains of language schools, as well as major publishers of ELT materials.

Adaptive learning software tailors learning materials and tasks to the individuals who are using them, and provides previously undreamt of opportunities for assessment. Promoted by most national governments and education ministries, international bodies such as the OECD or the World Bank, the biggest software companies and huge educational foundations such as the Gates Foundation, adaptive learning is coming your way soon.

This short guide to adaptive learning for English language teachers will:

  • provide uncomplicated explanations and examples of what it is and how it works
  • discuss the impact that it is likely to have in the world of language teaching
  • evaluate its potential and examine its implications
  • suggest ways of finding out more about latest developments


Unusually, for a book about education technology, it adopts a critical stance throughout and considers both the educational and political context of technological innovation.

Click on the links below to download this ebook for free! (pdf and epub versions available)

Adaptive Learning - pdf (1770) Adaptive Learning - epub (923)






7 thoughts on “A Short Guide to Adaptive Learning in English Language Teaching

  1. Incoming link: A balanced view on technology and foreign language education «

  2. Sorry if I’ve missed something, but I can’t find a clearly marked explanation of what ‘adaptive learning’ is in the essay. As it is, I don’t think it exists – what it is that claims to be adaptive are computer programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo – i.e. they supposedly ‘adapt’ as people use them.

  3. Excellent article on adaptive learning. Very informative and great references for further reading on the concept as well as opposing teaching/learning approaches. I agree with the conclusion that, although the concept sounds perfect, the reality is that although the pace and repetition adapt to the learner, the content doesn’t. I still think these computer-platform based courses are only good for lower levels where the student is learning the most common, basic building blocks of the language. However, at higher levels a more personalized, student-driven approach is needed in order to achieve real, meaningful progress and maintain engagement.

  4. Incoming link: mikejharrison | ESOL teacher | IATEFL web conference preview number 3 – Philip Kerr

  5. Incoming link: What’s the Harm of Language Testing? | Richard Smith ELT

  6. Incoming link: “I honestly can’t understand what’s so bad with taking a language test!” | Achilleas Kostoulas

  7. Incoming link: A Short Guide to Adaptive Learning in English Language Teaching. Free title | Learning Lovers

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