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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?

Personalized learning experiences are far from a nice-to-have these days; they are the expectation. Building and refining those learning journeys, however, requires true expertise. 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 growth. Underneath the intuitive learning dashboard and sophisticated algorithms, there’s an approach to instruction grokunded 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 expertise of our research and learning engineering team and the technology brought to life by our topnotch 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 drive the creation of unique learning paths for each student, learning in Exact Path starts with assessment. By taking a mastery-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 skill: 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. Learners’ unique scale scores help select an initial skill that students can begin with, and their performance on that skill 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 learners. For our youngest Exact Path users, their unique learning path includes a prescribed sequence and clear guidance and sequencing to ensure that students don’t get off track or accidentally redo something they’ve already completed. For older students, however, a less-animated simple tile design guides the learner toward learning-path completion.

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 the 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 instructional reinforcement, supporting accelerated students who are ahead of grade level but, at the same time, to offer remediation for those who may have struggled grasping content the first time or who just need a refresher. Each lesson, which you can think of as a short tutorial, is self-guided, allowing students to progress at their own pace.

Following each lesson, 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 educators through instantaneous progress notifications.

When students wrap up their practice session, it’s time to show what they know! Each lesson ends with a Progress Check that includes five questions to formatively assess student understanding. Students must earn an 80-percent score or higher in order to show mastery. This multipart lesson format continues for all skills that students receive in their unique learning path.

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 if a skill has been mastered or if 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 as the next lesson.

Conversely, we know that not all students get it right the first time around. When a Progress Check indicates that mastery has not yet been reached for a specific skill, students are first offered the opportunity to make a second attempt. This helps catch those students who simply may have moved too quickly and nudges them to revisit the tutorial and practice for additional support.

If students are unsuccessful a second time, this is when automated remediation kicks in. For every skill where a prerequisite lesson is available, students receive what is called a Building Block. This just-in-time remediation offers students the chance to shore up 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 an alternate learning approach.

Throughout this process, students make academic strides independently, but teachers are never kept out of the loop. Ongoing notifications and progress reporting is made available in Current Activities and Knowledge Map data visualizations, 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 teacher-created Challenges, collect mastery Trophies 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, an indicator of grade-level proficiency, and a national percentile rank that can be used to triangulate performance and communicate progress to parents and stakeholders, as well as set academic goals for the remainder of the school 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 accelerated growth.

This post was originally published June 2016 and has been updated.

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.