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Unpacking Exact Path: What does the learning path experience look like?

Unpacking Exact Path: What does the learning path experience look like?

There’s no doubt that adaptive technology is changing the landscape of education. We see it in individual classrooms where students are increasingly taking control over the pace in which they learn via online tools, and we see it at the national level with the expanded assessment options that states can partake in under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). For those educators and students who are leveraging adaptive curriculum to augment the learning process, what does the path for learning really look like?

At Edmentum, we’ve assembled a powerhouse team to help answer that question. Our K–12 math, reading, and language arts program, Exact Path, combines adaptive diagnostic assessments with individualized learning paths to propel learning forward. Underneath the intuitive learning dashboard and sophisticated algorithms, there’s an approach to instruction grounded in pedagogical best practices.

This starts with the work of our in-house curriculum team, made up of highly qualified subject-matter experts and experienced former educators, who continue to develop, test, and review (with current teachers and third-party experts across the country) a growing catalog of rich content and assessment items. The team’s hard work, coupled with the proven evidence base established by our research team and the expert technology brought to life by our top-notch developers, ensures that Exact Path is offering an innovative approach to supporting academic growth.

So, that answers WHO is behind defining that learning journey, but back to our original question: WHAT does the path for learning really look like? Let’s take a closer look at what students experience every time they log in.

Defining what students are ready to learn: It all starts with assessment

Whether it’s leveraging our valid and reliable adaptive diagnostic assessment to pinpoint where learning should begin or using the results from one of our two assessment partners, NWEA or Renaissance®, to create a unique learning playlist for each student, learning in Exact Path starts with assessment. By taking a competency-based approach to learning that is guided by data, educators can feel confident that the frustration students feel when relearning something they’ve already mastered—or conversely, feeling like they’re out of their depth before the learning has even begun—is removed from the equation.

Deploying an initial set of skills: The learning path

As soon as students complete their assessment, results within each subject domain instantaneously and automatically define which discrete skills students are ready to learn first. Those skills are not restricted to a given grade level but instead represent critical learning components pulled from a K–12 learning progression to match students’ academic readiness. Each learner’s unique scale scores help select no more than four skills that the student can begin with, and his or her performance on those skills will continue to shape what follows.

Delivering an experience in tune with the learner: Matching a student’s maturity level

Exact Path supports kindergarten through 12th grade students, but the experience is vastly different depending on the age of the learner. For our youngest Exact Path users, their unique learning playlist includes a prescribed sequence and gentle guidance to ensure that students don’t get off track or accidentally redo something they’ve already completed. For older students, however, skills are displayed to offer greater autonomy to the learner who can self-select which of the lessons he or she wishes to start with.

Understanding the learning components: Instruction, practice, and assessment

When students launch their first lesson module, which covers a discrete skill, they are exposed to a proven pedagogical approach within their zone of proximal development. For your youngest learners, friendly animation and characters cover skills via vibrant examples and age-appropriate storylines. Older students, on the other hand, are presented with real-world scenarios and engaging photography that is better suited for them.

Exact Path is designed to provide initial instruction, supporting your accelerated students who are ahead of grade level but, at the same time, offer remediation for those who may have struggled grasping content the first time or who just need a refresher. Each tutorial is self-guided, allowing students to engage with the learning components at their own pace.

Following each instructional tutorial, students are presented with an opportunity to practice what they’ve just learned. Practice modules offer a low-risk chance to apply what has just been taught and collect real-time feedback. Scores are recorded and delivered to the educator through instantaneous progress notifications.

When students wrap up their practice session, it’s time to show what they know! Each 3rd - 12th grade lesson ends with a Mastery Quiz that includes five questions to formatively assess student understanding. Lessons that cover K-2 skills do not include a Mastery Quiz to remove the assessment load for these younger learners. Students must earn an 80-percent score or higher in order to show mastery. This multi-part lesson format continues for all skills that students receive in their unique learning path.

Intervening when there are signs of struggle: Failing the Mastery Quiz

If a student is unsuccessful following a first Mastery Quiz attempt, the educator is immediately notified that the student is struggling via the homepage and learning path visualizations. While this is a terrific opportunity for the teacher to intervene, leveraging some of the additional videos, worksheets, and lesson ideas found in Exact Path, we know that’s not always possible.

Within the online environment, not passing a Mastery Quiz signals that the student should revisit that skill. The quiz is locked until the student reviews the lesson again. Often, spending a little extra time revisiting the learning material does just the trick. And, if a student is still unsuccessful the second go round? Again, a notification is deployed to the teacher, encouraging him or her to intervene. But, until that intervention can occur, the student is allowed to move forward, ensuring that he or she is never locked out of learning.

Checking for mastery and spiraling learning forward: The Progress Check

Following every batch of up to four skills, Exact Path introduces another opportunity for students to show what they know. The Progress Check dynamically assembles a formative assessment with questions that cover the set of up to four skills the student most recently worked on. This additional temperature check not only analyzes results to adapt what students will see next in their individualized learning path, but it also ensures that concepts are spiraled forward and continually reinforced. This teaching method allows students to expand their knowledge and deepen their skill level upon additional encounters with the content.

Adapting the learning path: Building Blocks and Trophies

At the completion of every Progress Check, we see the magic really start to happen! Students and educators immediately receive feedback regarding which skills have been mastered and where remediation may be required. For each skill in which achievement is attained, students receive a Trophy commending their efforts. A new skill representing the next appropriate level of academic challenge is introduced in their subsequent batch of skills for every skill that is mastered.

Conversely, we know that not every student gets it right the first time around. When a Progress Check indicates that mastery has not yet been reached for a specific skill or set of skills, automated remediation kicks in. For every skill where a prerequisite lesson is available, students receive what is called a Building Block in their next set of lessons. This just-in-time remediation offers students the chance to shore up any foundational concepts before revisiting the original skill. Building Blocks can go back a maximum of two prerequisite skills if required and then move students back up to the original skill level as achievement is met. When a Building Block is not available, a differentiated lesson for the same skill may be introduced, providing students with a second opportunity to demonstrate understanding while leveraging a separate learning approach.

Throughout this process, students make academic strides independently, but the teacher is never kept out of the loop. Ongoing notifications and progress updates are made available, paired with the option to review individual responses and assign or print activities for teacher-led remediation.

Coming full circle: Reassess and readjust with ongoing assessment

As students continue to work in Exact Path, they can expect to uncover additional academic challenges, collect accolades for a job well done, and receive remediation as needed to keep them on course. We also recommend readministering the Exact Path adaptive diagnostic assessment two to three additional times throughout the school year as an interim assessment measure. Educators also have the option to once again bring in assessment scores from one of our partners in lieu of giving our assessment. With each administration of the Exact Path assessment, students receive a valid measure of growth that can be used to communicate progress to parents and stakeholders, as well as set academic goals for the remainder of the year.

Additionally, students will receive an updated learning path following each new assessment score upload or readministration. By providing students with a fresh learning path, Exact Path accounts for progress made outside of the program, as well as accommodates for any learning loss that might occur after a long break from school. Details regarding progress made on each learning path are always accessible from the Student Summary Report for each learner.

In Exact Path, it is the careful combination of instruction, practice, and assessment, coupled with just-in-time notifications and data views that empower educators to lead a classroom of students of varying skill levels to academic achievement and personal growth.

madison.michell's picture
Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.