CTL: Insightful design, research, and evaluation of innovative learning environments and assessments

CTL’s SunBay Math Adopted by Districts in Florida

Students working together on tablets

How can teachers address rigorous mathematics content while increasing emphasis on “mathematical practices” such as reasoning and communication? Many middle school math teachers struggle with this question as they implement new college- and career-ready standards, such as the Common Core and new Florida Math Standards.

Two of the largest school districts in Florida believe that the tools and strategies embedded throughout SunBay Math™, a program developed by SRI Education, can help teachers answer this question. Both districts used the materials as part of a randomized validation study led by SRI Education with support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund.

SunBay Math, which is based on more than 25 years of research, uses technology to spotlight six foundational middle school concepts that are known to be hard to learn and hard to teach. Rigorous gold standard experiments have shown that the SunBay materials outperform traditional materials in student learning of the important mathematics concepts of proportionality and linear function. These materials now also include the topics of ratios, rate and proportionality, algebraic expressions and geometric transformations.

SunBay Math is more than technology: It integrates curriculum modules that provide structure to students’ experiences, as well as teacher professional development activities in which teachers learn how to support students as they engage in the types of mathematics activities and practices that lead to deep understanding of key mathematics topics.

Both districts have made SunBay Math materials and professional development available to all of their middle school math teachers and are looking forward to seeing the impact that SunBay Math will have.

Designing Instructionally Supportive Assessments for Science Classrooms

Students working together in a lab

Having the right kinds of assessments is critically important because they guide what teachers and students attend to during instruction. High-quality assessments can help teachers implement new standards, help students learn more, and provide equitable opportunities for all students to develop their proficiency with science. The Next Generation Science Assessment (NGSA) group is a multi-institutional collaborative that is developing classroom-ready assessment tasks for science teachers to gain insights into their students’ progress toward achieving the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The NGSA group is a collaboration among experts in science education and assessment from the Center for Technology in Learning, CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University, Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Concord Consortium. The NGSA group has recognized the need for a clear and efficient approach to designing assessment tasks that support the teaching and learning of the new standards. Their approach is described in the report "Constructing Assessment Tasks That Blend Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices for Classroom Formative Applications." To learn more about the NGSA design effort and review the tasks, visit the NGSA website.

Two female  students on bicycles in Africa

Bicycles Help Students in South Africa Get to School on Time

SRI Education, with support from the UBS Optimus Foundation, recently completed a study of the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP) in South Africa. The BEEP program distributes bikes to children in rural areas who walk long distances to school, with the goal of getting them to school more quickly and consistently and supporting improved attendance, academic achievement, and family access to resources. The rural South Africa setting provided some unique opportunities and challenges for BEEP, including a lack of existing cycling culture or infrastructure.

From interviews with program participants and families and surveys of students, we found an overwhelmingly favorable response to the bike program, including reports of increased on-time arrival at school and significantly reduced travel times that freed up time for chores and studying. The research also revealed factors that limit the program’s effectiveness, including a lack of bike maintenance that rendered many bikes inoperable for periods of time, girls using their bikes significantly less than boys because of a lack of confidence in their cycling ability and gender norms that work against female cycling, and students’ fears about their physical safety while cycling due to road conditions or inexperience. Learn more about WBR’s commitment to serving the transportation challenges of students and families in these remote communities in our report, "Evaluation of World Bicycle Relief’s Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program: South Africa Opportunity Study."

Two female  students on bicycles in Africa

CIRCL Hosts National and International Events on STEM Learning

SRI’s Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) and NSF recently hosted two large events in Washington DC: a symposium on Active Learning in STEM Education and a forum on Next Generation STEM High Schools. The events -- which engaged 213 K-12 teachers receiving the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and more than 70 leading education scholars and researchers – were designed to give participants the opportunity to share best practices in STEM learning, explore new ways to encourage students to engage and envision themselves as STEM professionals, and advance the dialogue on what could – and should – constitute the next-generation teaching and learning environment in our nation’s schools. Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith spoke about the need to work together to instill confidence in students to pursue STEM, SRI’s Barbara Means shared research showing that inclusive STEM high schools have enough duration and intensity to change student goals and self-perception, and keynote speaker Bill Penuel discussed ways to organize active learning in our schools and communities. Summaries are available on the event websites and in a White House Blog.

On September 12, CIRCL hosted a workshop before the European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL) in Lyon, France. A group of 23 researchers from the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Israel discussed research agendas on three themes: computational thinking, embodied learning, and crossover learning (bridging formal and informal spaces). The themes were selected from the "2015 Innovating Pedagogy Report" and helped focus the conversation. Representatives from NSF and the European Commission weighed in on their funding priorities and how they related to the three themes. The workshop participants are now writing recommendations for future research agendas on these topics and will share them broadly when completed.

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Blog Posts:

Report Tackles Assessment Design for Next Generation Science Standards

Evaluating and Understanding STEM Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood

Technology for Learning Mathematics: What Can We Learn from Large-Scale Studies?

Cyberlearning '16 Tackles Designs for Deeper, Broader, and More Equitable Learning

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