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Learning with Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and Equity

October 5, 2018

Study OverviewPersonalized learning is often equated with individual learning using technology. Yet for many students, learning on their own may not effectively meet their needs. The aim of this study was to explore racial differences in experiences and benefits associated with collaboration. We collected data from a variety of sources for students, teachers, and classrooms within four racially diverse high schools that emphasized both personalization and collaboration. Our sample included 892 students, 138 teachers, and 30 classrooms. Our qualitative analyses identified emergent themes from focus groups and interviews, and our quantitative analyses examined associations among opportunities for collaboration, classroom experiences, and outcomes, testing whether these associations differed forBlack students versus White students. We found that, for all students, reports of high-quality collaboration were strongly associated with positive classroom experiences and mind-set/ dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy. Moreover, high-quality collaboration was strongly associated with students' perceptions of personalization—and personalization, in turn, was strongly associated with outcomes. At the same time, focus group discussions revealed that Black students perceived less relevance in collaborative activities, more frequent experiences of exclusion and marginalization, and lower support from teachers during collaborative group work than did non-Black peers. Findings from this study suggest that collaborative experiences could be among the factors that contribute to positive changes in the academic trajectories of Black students, particularly when these opportunities reflect high-quality features. Thus, schools and educators aiming to address equity through personalization should consider increasing opportunities for high-quality collaboration.

Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education: The Relationship Between Competency-Based Education Practices and Students' Learning Skills, Behaviors, and Dispositions

June 28, 2016

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (Nellie Mae), in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), has recently released a comprehensive analysis of competency-based education (CBE), an instructional approach that emphasizes what students learn and master rather than time spent in a classroom. The study, titled "Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education," examines the relationship between various competency-based practices and increased student learning capacity. Additionally, the study highlights the varying degrees of CBE practices in schools that have an existing reputation for implementation."Schools across the country are increasingly seeking ways to provide a competency-based education for students, yet many educators are not sure of where to begin or how they can implement this approach to learning," said Eve Goldberg, Director of Research at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. "The framework developed by AIR of learning skills, behaviors, and dispositions and the findings on specific practices can help educators strengthen their practices and gives them the tools to continuously improve their practice. We hope educators interested in making this shift will benefit from this analysis.""Looking Under the Hood" analyzes a variety of competency-based practices to examine how schools implement CBE and determine how it relates to students' learning capacities. Some notable findings include:Learning in contexts outside the classroom (for example, internships) positively relates to increasing students' learning capacitiesThe option for students to learn at a comfortable pace (for example, extra time to finish a topic or unit and the opportunity to retake an exam or re-do a final project) has a positive association with self-efficacy and increasing students' motivation to learnThe option for students to receive both instruction and assessment in a variety of formats, including collaborative group projects, helped students' intrinsic motivationEstablishing clear learning targets was positively related to increasing students' learning capacitiesOverall, the study finds that many students' experiences with CBE-aligned practices were positively associated with changes in learning capacities in several areas, most notably in students' intrinsic motivation for classroom work."Competency-based education varies tremendously from school to school and even across classrooms, so it can be hard to determine if it is working," said Erin Haynes, Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. "This study examined specific CBE-aligned practices, giving us a more finely-honed view of how such practices are related to students' capacity to learn. We hope this research will help inform future efforts to implement competency-based methods across districts, schools and classrooms."

An Up-Close Look at Student-Centered Math Teaching: A Study of Highly Regarded High School Teachers and Their Students - Executive Summary

November 18, 2014

Today, far too many students see mathematics as a subject to be endured, rather than a subject of real-world importance and personal value. That doesn't have to be the case. When teachers use student-centered techniques to engage studentsin more active and authentic ways, they can transform math classrooms into lively learning environments in which studentstake charge of their own learning, collaborate with others, persist in solving complex problems, and make meaningfulconnections to the world around them. Through such experiences, students may come to appreciate mathematics as adiscipline that enriches their lives and their understanding of the world.While a growing body of research supports many of the principles of student-centered instruction, there is still a great dealto learn about how such approaches enhance student learning in mathematics. Recent calls for strengthening the STEMworkforce and for more rigorous K-12 standards via the Common Core State Standards have placed increased emphasison developing higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills in high school mathematics, heightening the need for moreinformation about how teachers can effectively engage students with math content.The American Institutes of Research (AIR), with support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, conducted a study ofhighly regarded high school math teachers to expand the research base in two important ways. First, rather than assumingstudent-centered instruction is a monolithic construct, the team used a case study approach to provide rich descriptions ofhow the approach plays out in several classrooms, taking into account how teachers' personal philosophy and the school'sinstructional context might influence their practice. The case study also provided insights into students' perspectives on different approaches to mathematics instruction. Second, the researchers look across a larger sample of classrooms to determine the effects of varying degrees of student-centeredness on students' engagement with learning and their problem-solving skills.This brief offers highlights from the study's design and findings. Readers are encouraged to access the full paper for more details.