2 min read

Customized Classroom

By Paul J. Zak on May 26, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Teachers get too much and too little credit for student outcomes.

Some students are ready to learn, others struggle to sit still for an hour.   Some teachers are naturally interesting and interested in teaching, others not so much.

How can student outcomes be improved if one cannot measure how effectively information is getting into student's brains?  Immersion measures neurologic states that objectively identify if material is being absorbed by students.  Using Immersion, teachers can customize educational experiences so that every student learns.    Teachers no longer have to wait until tests are graded to see which students need extra help, they can follow up with the students who need more attention immediately.

One of my former graduate students teaches economics at an elite college.  He used the Immersion platform to customize his teaching.  Immersion is in the prediction business so I asked him to relate the neurologic measures on the platform to students' grades.  He measured the neurologic responses of 23 students for eight classes before the midterm in his Principles of Microeconomics course.

The Immersion platform calculates a number of metrics from neurologic data.  Several of these metrics can be applied to improve and customize learning.  One I have previously written about is psychological safety.   This neurologic measure captures readiness to learn.  You can think of psychological safety as the opposite of anxiety.  When students are psychological safe, they learn information more easily.   Immersion has created the world's only neurologic measure of psychological safety.

The correlation of average psychological safety for the eight class prior to the midterm and midterm grades was a solid 0.35. Our analysis showed that 25% increase in psychological safety would increase students' performance by a full letter grade.  Readiness to learn matters and can be measured and managed for better student performance.

Another measure from the immersion platform, neurologic frustration, identifies when teaching is ineffective.  The correlation between students' midterm grades and average frustration was -0.32.  When students are frustrated, they simply absorb less information. 

The data scientists at Immersion then built a statistical model to predict students’ grades.  Both psychological safety and frustration were statistically associated with midterm grades, the former positively and the latter negatively.  These neurological variables explain fully 20% of the variation in student achievement. 

By tracking neurologic responses in real-time, instructors can create an optimized learning environment and can adjust teaching to the needs of individual learners. Immersion is the only software platform with these easy-to-use and use-it-anywhere predictive abilities.  If you want those you teach to retain more, perform better, and enjoy learning, you have to measure immersion. 

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Paul J. Zak

Written by Paul J. Zak

Paul’s two decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rain forest of Papua New Guinea. All this in a quest to understand the neuroscience of human connection, human happiness, and effective teamwork.