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[Feature Focus] Exact Path’s Adaptive Learning Paths

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 -- Winnie O'Leary

It’s a new school year, and you are about to face a classroom of bright and shining faces whom you know very little about. Maybe a few come with instructions, but for the most part, you are starting with a blank slate. How do you ensure that students are working on the right lesson at just the right time? Every student’s strengths and opportunity areas are different—making sure that you have tools that recognize those nuances and help you adjust instruction appropriately is critical. And that’s where our newest program for individualized learning, Edmentum Exact Path, comes into play.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a closer look at Exact Path’s approach to assessment to explore how our research-based adaptive diagnostic assessments and formative Progress Checks are used side by side to pinpoint each learner’s unique abilities and measure growth. This week, we turn our attention to the next piece of the puzzle—the adaptive learning paths that are created as a result of each diagnostic administration. It is no longer enough to expect assessment technology to simply assess; it should provide next steps as well. Otherwise, without clear and immediate next steps to engage students in learning, we as teachers know all too well that those precocious little faces will soon be running with scissors (and getting into all other kinds of trouble).

Let’s dive right in and get a better understanding  of Exact Path’s approach to instruction and the adaptive learning paths.

How does Edmentum support individualized instruction?

When it comes to providing meaningful instruction, we know that technology is a powerful classroom tool, but it’s still just that—a tool. Teachers drive the real learning magic, and Exact Path’s approach to instruction supports what they’re already doing by fostering a symbiotic relationship between the teacher and technology. Through ease of use and alignment to what is happening instructionally, Exact Path makes your life as a teacher easier, not more complicated. Sounds good, right? So, how do we accomplish this?

As mentioned in earlier posts, the Exact Path diagnostic assessment not only identifies the instructional level of each student but also takes the next step by generating just-in-time instruction with a pedagogically proven sequence of lessons and activities designed to help students build skill competencies independently. These instructional components come together in what are known as learning paths, automatically created following a reading, language arts, or math assessment to support students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Each fresh playlist of content respects the age and grade level of the student, in addition to identifying splintered abilities and adjusting specifically to those strengths and needs.

Not only do these learning paths help students build confidence as they complete their independent work, but also teachers receive a steady stream of real-time information to ensure that technology becomes an extension of what they are doing daily in the classroom. These data can inform instruction, which, in turn, can inform the learning path through further assessments. Easy access to learning metrics ensures that educators are armed with current and active knowledge to further personalize learning for each student.

How does this approach to instruction set Exact Path apart?

When you’re evaluating an instructional tool, you always want to ensure that what you’re implementing is the best program for your unique set of learners and the particular challenges you face. We’ve made your students our priority by focusing on three key areas:

Quality Content

Exact Path’s learning path content is researched, created, and validated by our own teams of in-house subject matter experts and psychometricians. Additionally, in partnership with Dr. Norman Webb and the WebbAlign team, a research study was completed earlier this year that found strong alignment between Edmentum content and the depth of knowledge (DOK) model, which, in turn, helps validate a very strong match of item difficulty to learner.

Based on this study and others, we are able to ensure that a student’s placement in the learning pathway is precise. Armed with this confidence, we deliver lessons and activities in bite-sized chunks, exposing no more than four skills at a time for a learner to work on. Each skill may include various instructional components, such as direct instruction, practice, mastery quizzes, and progress checks, as detailed below. The process is predictable, and the content is unique and engaging. 

Exact Path Instructional Components

Engagement

Student engagement is critical for digital learning programs to be of any value. That said, we like to define engagement as more than just animated games and experience points. We start with offering students content that they are ready to learn based on their diagnostic results, minimizing the risk of either frustration or boredom. Then, from within the content itself, students are able to access support tools, such as highlighters and a text-to-speech function, to help them independently apply learning question strategies and conquer tough questions. Additionally, rewards are available that recognize both grit and mastery in the form of Mastery Trophies and teacher-defined Challenge Badges.

Exact Path Student Engagement

Ease of Use

Once again, those curious faces are watching, waiting to soak up all you have to offer, and time is limited. Coaching students on how to use an online program takes precious moments from the time you have  for teaching. For that reason, three developmentally appropriate learner interfaces are available to support students in all stages of their academic journey. Student-tested designs, colors, icons, and buttons help learners navigate the program easily, giving them greater agency over their learning journey.

Exact Path User Interface by Grade

How can Exact Path learning paths be used in K–8 classrooms?

The features integrated within Exact Path have been carefully designed to support learners and give teachers a chance to review actionable data and monitor student mastery. Understanding how learning paths can be used in the classroom starts with knowing how your students are learning. Not only are Exact Path learning paths individualized to close skill gaps for students who are struggling, but they’re also ideal for students in need of enrichment. There’s not a point where students hit grade-level standards expectations and the program responds: “Congratulations, you’re done!”. Instead, each learner is able to continue enriching his or her academic experience in Exact Path with skills and content that extend through 12th grade.

Similarly, Exact Path’s approach to instruction takes into account that students learn in different ways. Oral fluency tasks to calculate reading accuracy and words-per-minute speed are offered as well as teacher-graded activities for collaborative, written, or oral exercises to meet speaking and listening standards in a manner that maintains educator involvement. These optional learning tools support what you are already doing in the classroom, providing pedagogically sound resources for you to incorporate into daily instruction. Additionally, teacher resources are available within the program and include printable activities, lesson ideas, and videos aligned to specific skills and standards. Imagine the power of a tool designed to support intervention or enrichment needs for those who require differentiated options to meet learning expectations— one with immediate data points, content specific to an individual student’s needs, ongoing actionable data, and resources for all learners. That’s what we were looking to create when we set out to develop Exact Path. It can help you make sure that those buzzing young minds are engaged and give you the insight required to know who needs what and when they need it.

How does Exact Path track progress?

All of this speaks to classroom work, but of course, there is the accountability piece to consider as well. With this rich variety of curricula available in Exact Path, you might be asking what data outputs can you expect (your principal and superintendents may be asking for it too). Learning path data are focused on measuring progress appropriate for each audience:

  1. District and School Administrators: Exportable Skills Performance reports help school and district leaders monitor instructional needs to make critical decisions on the investment of resources. This view allows educators to view skill mastery by grade level to identify aggregated performance trends skill by skill.
  2. Teachers: The Knowledge Map becomes command central for the classroom teacher by offering real-time learning path progress to support instructional decisions. Review the entire K–12 skills progression within the program to see if students are struggling, practicing, or working at or above mastery level for each skill. Additionally, educators can drill into specific student answers to identify where learning breaks down and plan for next steps.
  3. Parents and Stakeholders: Individual student summary reports are available in Exact Path to help provide a comprehensive picture of all student activities within the program. Educators can leverage these detailed views during parent-teacher conferences or IEP meetings to communicate growth and progress with both parents and other stakeholders.

The idea of a silver bullet in education is a bit naïve, but having the tools to meet the needs of your unique learners, provide actionable data, support district accountability, and enable communication with parents is a great starting point. Exact Path offers those capabilities in a single, flexible online tool, which frees you up to go hang up that bulletin board and greet your new class with less stress! 

Interested in learning more about how Edmentum Exact Path can support individualized learning in your school or district? Check out one California district’s story of driving student growth using Exact Path, and then explore some of the exciting new features and enhancements that will be released throughout the summer.