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Spring is Here!
Spring is a time for renewal and reinvigoration, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the education research community. Each spring, we gather with colleagues from academic and research institutions from across the country and around the world to share new findings, insights, and effective practices at educational research conferences. In this issue, you’ll find a glimpse of some of the presentations that SRI Education’s researchers are sharing at conferences hosted by the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
Check out a full list of SRI Education researchers presenting at AERA (with links to sessions).
Denise Glyn Borders
President, SRI Education
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The College-Ready Writers Program:
Teacher PD that Makes a Difference
States across the nation have adopted new standards to advance students’ writing skills; however, most students are not experiencing instruction that aligns with those standards. Because the new standards require a new way of teaching, identifying supports to help teachers make substantial shifts in writing instruction is imperative. The National Writing Project (NWP) designed the College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) to improve writing instruction—specifically argument writing instruction—in secondary schools. The program consists of teacher professional development that focuses on teaching students how to read and evaluate non-fiction sources that provide information and express a range of viewpoints about relevant and debatable issues, make their own claims about these issues, and support these claims in writing using evidence drawn from source material.
To learn whether CRWP could make a significant impact on both teacher instruction and student achievement, SRI Education researchers conducted a 2-year randomized controlled trial. Twelve NWP sites provided CRWP professional development for teachers in 22 high-poverty rural school districts across 10 states. An overwhelming number of English language arts teachers (76% across 22 districts) participated in at least 45 hours of professional development each year of the program. We found that CRWP has positive effects on both teacher practices and students’ argument writing. The professional development significantly impacted the instruction students experienced, leading teachers to spend more time on complex writing tasks such as connecting evidence to an argument and less time on writing conventions. Students in CRWP districts outperformed students in control districts on three key attributes of argument writing – content, structure, and stance.
SRI researchers presented these evaluation results at the recent Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) conference. For more information on the College-Ready Writers Program, visit our recent blog on the topic.
Developing an Early Mathematics Assessment to Evaluate School Readiness for Young Learners
On Friday afternoon, Sara Vasquez and Ximena Dominguez, along withRegan Vidiksis of the Education Development Center (EDC), will help get AERA underway with their sessiondiscussing the development of an early mathematics assessment to evaluate young children’s school readiness. Learning mathematics early in childhood is essential to ensure children’s school readiness. However, research suggests that children from economically disadvantaged communities often do not have the same opportunities to develop key foundational mathematics skills as their better-resourced peers. Because young children spend much of their time learning at home with their families, supporting children’s learning of early mathematics at home is also crucial to ensuring school readiness.
To meet that need, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)-Public Broadcasting System (PBS) created theReady to Learn (RTL) initiative, supported by the U.S. Department of Education. RTL delivers engaging, high-quality educational programming and resources through technology platforms to create experiences that enhance young children’s learning. To evaluate how these media experiences could benefit early mathematics learning, researchers at SRI Education and Education Development Center (EDC) conducted a series of studies to measure the impact of these mathematics resources on children’s school readiness. In one of these studies, researchers needed to assess a specific set of mathematics skills that were not aligned to existing assessments, which therefore would be unlikely to detect learning in these areas.
To assess the promise of the PBS KIDS PEG+CAT Intervention, the research team developed an assessment aligned to the early mathematics skills targeted in the program, but not activities and tasks in the media resources themselves. By employing an evidence-centered design approach to develop a standardized assessment for early mathematics, researchers ensured proper measurement of skills, while avoiding bias due to over-alignment between activities in the program and activities in the assessment. At AERA, Vasquez and Dominguez will share this assessment development process to support other efforts that may need to develop assessment methodology, in addition to the assessment tool itself. For more on the study, see the full blog post.
Balancing Widespread Use and Positive Learning Impacts of Educational Technology
On Monday at AERA, Barbara Means and Vanessa Peters will discuss their recent evaluation using scaling and learning outcome data from 22 “Next Generation” digital learning projects. Today, technology developers can get their innovations into the hands of many users quickly, giving them the opportunity to gather user feedback they can use for product improvement. Educational technology product design is no exception, as illustrated by the Khan Academy, which grew from a few YouTube videos to a million users in less than four years and now features more than 5,000 online learning resources.
In theory, the rapid scaling, massive amount of user data, and continuous iteration that are part of the Silicon Valley Way result in better products, which in turn lead to growth in market share. But is this really true for educational technology products? Within schools and colleges, a pleasing experience using technology is not enough. The purpose of introducing new technologies is to improve learning outcomes. There’s an argument to be made that things that are the easiest to adopt because they do not require changing normal practice are unlikely to improve learning outcomes significantly.
The study findings revealed that the features associated with widespread scale were quite different from those associated with positive impacts. This tension between scaling and producing consistently positive outcomes has significant implications not just for educational technology developers, but also for learning technology adopters, policymakers, and funders who need to consider digital learning innovations for education systems. For more on the study, see Barbara’s full blog post.
Using “Big Data” to Personalize Learning
Increasing amounts of student data are being collected, and we’re working to help educators learn how to use those data to make better, more timely and precise instructional decisions to increase individual student learning. SRI researchers Andrew Krumm and Jose Blackorby, along with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, University of Kansas, and Texthelp Ltd., will lead a Program Chair Featured Session at this year’s Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) convention.
Personalization, Big Data, and the Changing World of Special Education will describe the movement of personalization and the range of sources of new data available to educators, new approaches for analyzing and presenting data, and the challenges in making sense of and using the data. If you’ll be at CEC, don’t miss this presentation and Q&A session on Friday, April 15 at 9:15 am in Room 130.
Check out a full list of SRI Education researchers presenting at AERA.
With links directly to sessions!
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