At Edmentum, we have been building great instruction for years. We strive each year and with each new project to assess the effectiveness of our existing instruction, to evaluate the evolving world of research in teaching and learning, and to update and strengthen our approach to content design. Our new product, Edmentum’s Individualized Learning Solution, provided the latest opportunity for all of us on the curriculum team to push ourselves, try new approaches, and refine our design process.
Our Individualized Learning Solution begins with an adaptive diagnostic assessment, measuring student skills in Math, Reading, and English Language Arts. For each of the three subjects, the diagnostic produces an overall scale score and specific domain scores within that subject. We then use the individual diagnostic results for each student to assign high quality instruction targeted for the skill that particular student is ready to learn within each domain. This assignment results in a learning path individualized to each learner which teachers can monitor through a series of periodic assessments, or progress checks.
The heart of Edmentum’s new Individualized Learning Solution shines through in our commitment to quality in building and delivering effective assessment items and pedagogically sound, engaging instruction. As our Senior Director of Curriculum Development, Christy Spivey noted in this recent blog post, “…quality content should include pedagogically sound instruction, have depth and breadth of rigor, and contain engaging and motivating content for students.” I want to discuss today how the instruction in our Individualized Learning Solution meets those expectations.
When we started work on our Individualized Learning Solution, we had 4 goals for the instructional content in the product:
- Instruct on skills in a manner that targets and addresses the rigorous, next generation standards teachers are expected to meet in their classrooms
- Enhance our content model to provide clear instruction, sufficient practice, and supportive assessment for each skill
- Use top quality, rigorously reviewed content
- Incorporate best practices in early learning pedagogy and best practices in engagement to focus the content on the K-6 students who are the audience of this product
Our first step was to look at the skills that K-6 students are expected to master in Math, Reading, and English Language Arts (ELA). For each of these three subjects, we had subject matter experts (SMEs) build a progression of learning from Kindergarten to 8th grade that would cover the earliest requirements of kindergarten to the upper middle school skills that high achieving sixth graders are ready to learn. These SMEs looked at national and state standards to help define important skills and sequence them across and between grades. We validated this sequence using sophisticated data analysis, or psychometric calibration, of the assessment items used in our diagnostic assessment. After combining the rational analysis of SMEs with the empirical analysis of psychometricians, we have confidence in our understanding of the skills these learners need to master. We are also confident in the sequence in which we deliver these skills and the rigor our instruction needs to meet to support growth along this progression.
Next, we gathered the best of our existing high quality content and enhanced and expanded our instructional model for new content to provide the instruction for our Individualized Learning Solution. We designed new learning modules that start with direct instruction to support acquiring new knowledge. We then provide students with a supportive and engaging environment in which to practice what they learned with timely and instructive feedback. Next, we provide immediate assessment of mastery of the core of that skill.
For some skills we also provide more open-ended opportunities to think critically, problem solve, and practice creative skills with the support of peers or a teacher. This structure forms the basis of how we address each skill a student is ready to learn. After a student follows this structure for 3 or 4 skills, we provide a progress check to confirm mastery of the skills. If the student has not mastered all 3 or 4 skills at this point, there are opportunities to either practice the skills further or explore a fresh approach to learning any skill with which the student is struggling. For example, in this diagram, the student completes lessons for 3 skills, then completes a progress check. In the progress check, the student demonstrates mastery of the green skills, Supporting and Developing Topics and Using Linking words. However, the student struggles with the questions about the orange skill, Gathering Information. So, our system will provide the student with additional chances to practice the Gathering Information items, as well as fresh instruction on the concepts of the skill where available.
Edmentum has dedicated former teachers, subject matter experts, writers, designers, editors, media professionals, and so many other talented people who have been designing effective instruction for years. For this product, we focused our content on the K-6 students who are the audience and ultimate consumers of these lessons. We built our engaging instructional content with relatable and compelling characters in a mix of realistic and fanciful settings. We draw students in with interesting storylines, a variety of problems to solve, and humorous dialogue to keep the learning environment fun. We use a combination of character animations, live video, audio conversations, interactive online tasks, open-ended questions, and rich visual illustrations to engage students with a range of different learning styles. Each skill has age-appropriate instruction which should challenge and delight students as they grow their abilities along the progression of learning at the core of the product.
We are currently in the midst of two important steps in confirming the quality of our newest product. First, we have beta-testing underway with thousands of students in districts across the country. From the beta test, we will produce norms for our diagnostic assessment, validate and iterate on the design of our student and teacher user experiences, and gain valuable feedback on the quality of the assessment and instructional components of the content. We are also teaming with WebbAlign to validate and refine our progression of learning, our definition of skills in the progression, and our alignment of the assessment items to the skills within our progression.
Making quality content takes rigorous analysis, inventive design, creative writing, thorough review, and a keen eye for what keeps young students involved in their learning. It’s also amazingly fun and rewarding. Every individual on Edmentum’s curriculum team sincerely enjoys the process of designing and developing this instructional content. But, most importantly, we derive immense pride from seeing our commitment to quality curriculum in action, when it’s being used in schools across the country to truly support the growth of individual students who are eager to learn new skills every day.
Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we dive into how our new Individualized Learning Solution fulfills Edmentum’s other commitments to simple technology, actionable data, and customer success. Ready to get started with personalized learning in your school or district? Download our Guide to Creating Personalized Learning Plans for Your Students!