Teachers’ Top Tips for a Successful Exact Path Implementation
Teachers’ Top Tips for a Successful Exact Path Implementation
Whether you’re a seasoned Exact Path pro or new to launching the program, we have some tried-and-true tips from fellow educators to help you make the most of your implementation.
Representing grades K–12 across virtual, hybrid, and in-person classrooms, three teachers joined us on a recent panel webinar to share how they use Exact Path to drive outcomes, including improved growth on interim assessments, learning loss mitigation, and student engagement—all while meeting the unique needs of learners at different achievement levels. Let’s dive into the highlights!
Building Student Buy-In
We asked our guests how they get students motivated and excited about learning. Leveraging Exact Path’s built-in features and incentives, as well as a little creativity, they shared both simple reminders and innovative ideas to build student buy-in. Here are the top takeaways from our conversation.
1. Walk through program features
Although Exact Path’s easy-to-use interface is designed to be intuitive for students, it’s important to explain the how and why behind the program in order to maximize learning and engagement.
Lauren Hunt from Mustang Central Middle School in Oklahoma shared, “A lot of times, we kind of assume that our kiddos are digital natives and that they are just going to be able to jump into a new technology tool and be really successful with it. . . . Our kids definitely needed a good bit of support.” This support included a walkthrough of key features using tutorials and practice.
Mrs. Hunt continued, “We didn’t start seeing a ton of success with it until [students] really understood it and until they understood why we were using it.”
2. Make time for goal setting
Kaye Andersen from Garrison High School in North Dakota noted that students feel more empowered when they have clearly defined goals and see that growth is achievable. She shared that, after her school’s winter benchmark, she sat down with her students to walk through which areas they grew in and to determine how they could improve before their spring assessment.
Mrs. Andersen stated, “A lot of [students] said they could use their time in [Exact Path] more wisely knowing that it will help them if they take it seriously. So, that goal setting and feedback—we can’t overlook that part.”
3. Trade email feedback for live interaction when possible
When asked about motivating students in the distance-learning setting, Angela Beasley from Ballentine Elementary School in South Carolina discussed the value of live, virtual face-to-face connection, even if for brief moments of time. She elaborated:
[Students] are craving that social interaction, and timewise, it’s great to be able to send them an email . . . but what [we] found best to do is just to call students on [Microsoft] Teams or Zoom and pull up the screen and say, “Look at what you’ve been doing” and “I’m so impressed” and, at the same time, “These are some areas I know you’re having trouble with.” Just taking two minutes to reach out and do that personal connection is important because, without it, that feedback just doesn’t have the same meaning.
4. Leverage Exact Path Challenges to design your own contest
Teachers have the option to create Challenges in Exact Path in which students work toward an academic goal. Goals can be working a certain amount of time in the program or mastering a set number of skills. The built-in Challenges feature sets the groundwork for rich individual and classroom contest ideas. Learn more about structuring Exact Path contests here.
Whatever structure you use, contests are a great way to introduce students to the program and build momentum. One tip is to start with small, achievable goals so that students don’t feel intimidated, and then build from there.
Mrs. Andersen noted that her students rose to the challenge with her time-on-task-based contest. “Our teachers wanted to make sure that they set [the bar] low enough to start with so that the kids would have success right away. And it was exciting to see that not only did students do that, but teachers kept raising the minutes every quarter because the kids were reaching it.”
Mrs. Hunt took an activities-based approach to get students warmed up to the program before building up to mastery-based contests. She explained:
[That involves] going in and completing a tutorial, completing a practice, completing a mastery test—even if students are not reaching mastery—just because it is a new program. And we wanted to give them some time to get familiar with it before expecting super high levels of achievement.
At Ballentine Elementary, goals were increased once students got used to the program. Mrs. Beasley reported, “Student participation was fantastic, as well as grade level, and our [NWEA MAP Growth assessment] scores went up considerably for several students.”
5. Build momentum, and reward students through creative incentives
There are a multitude of ways to reward and incentivize engagement in Exact Path, whether those rewards are digital or in person.
For Mrs. Beasley’s in-person elementary classrooms, the best strategy was polling students to ask what would be exciting for them to work toward. Ice cream was the winner, so she created a contest in which different classes competed to complete the highest numbers of activities (represented by ice cream scoops) in exchange for an end-of-semester ice cream party for the winning class.
Another idea is to create an element of surprise, like in Mrs. Andersen’s 7th and 8th grade classes, where top performers could anticipate a mystery prize. A random drawing was drawn weekly, in which prizes were written on craft sticks.
Safe social recognition and engagement can also be a powerful way to motivate students. In a time of social distancing, students are craving safe ways to interact with and be seen by their peers.
Mrs. Andersen described a popular incentive in her classes. “One of the big things for [contest winners] is being able to post a selfie with the principal on Facebook.”
Mrs. Hunt shared that in her middle school classes, “We show leaderboards with the top student names who had completed the most activities each week in advisory.” She noticed that some of the most struggling students became top performers, and remarked, “They've really been motivated by being up on the leaderboard each week.”
Mrs. Hunt’s students also had the option to pick one hour out of their day to come down to the gym and cafeteria for socially distanced activities like bingo and basketball.
Building Buy-In for Teachers and Administrators
You may think to yourself, “I know I love Exact Path, but how do I get other teachers and my administration to love it too?”
1. Show them the data
One of Exact Path’s most-loved features is its robust and detailed reporting for diagnostic results, learning path data, and usage insights, all of which make it easy for teachers and administrators to see student needs and growth over time.
Mrs. Andersen highlighted the importance of tying in existing data to forecast challenges and solutions:
I needed to show just how many of our kids weren't reading at grade level. I needed to show how our high-flyer kids were getting to a certain level . . . and then, they were flatlining when they came to us at the middle school and high school. And I really needed to push [teachers and administrators] on what are we going to do about it so that they had the question. Then, they were more receptive of a suggestion for the answer.
Mrs. Beasley shared, “I think once [teachers] see these children making their marks and learning more skills, then it's a pretty easy buy-in.”
2. Highlight ease-of-use
Mrs. Beasley stated that what worked for her was emphasizing to other teachers how Exact Path made their lives easier. Specifically, the program is easy to use, and it automatically generates learning pathways and integrates with assessments, saving teachers time and meeting the unique needs of learners. Mrs. Beasley described:
It does not require a ton of implementation from a teacher. And so, the fact that it didn't require a teacher to go in and [assign and individualize] to each student, and that it was able to sync with our [Renaissance Star assessment] scores to get them started at a level that was appropriate for them, was really big.
Mrs. Hunt similarly highlighted that it was of the utmost importance to use results to position Exact Path as a solution:
We brought [Exact Path] to our teachers as a proposed solution to the issue that we were seeing with our scores on the [Renaissance] Star test at the beginning of the year. It was really important to our instructional leadership teams that we come to them and show them the reality of the situation, but also let them know we have a plan. We're not going to put it all on you to say, “OK, so here are these low scores, and here are these challenges that our students are facing; please fix them in your classroom”—but to say, “Here is kind of like a fun, motivating way that we think we can help our students.”