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A Teacher's Own Classroom Pilot

February 13, 2015

At St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (Austin, TX), Chris Mabley, a teacher of 43 years’ experience, decided to run a pilot of Aleks, a math software program, for his Algebra II classes and see whether it had a significant impact on his students’ learning. He had students choose whether they wanted to be in the pilot class or the traditional class, which he would teach with lectures and assigned problem sets.

Throughout the year, Mabley used the software not only to teach but also to track students’ progress. The program kept graphs of how quickly they mastered different topics, showing that students in the blended learning class were not only mastering topics more quickly, but also able to complete the bulk of their homework in class – on average, they spent half the time the students in the traditional class did doing problems at home. Moreover, within the blended learning class itself, half of the students mastered topics up to twice as quickly as the others.

Using the software and working at their own pace had allowed them to use their class time much more efficiently. Unlike the traditional class, the software determined each student’s initial knowledge from a short assessment, and produced a personalized list of topics that they were ready to learn. By using the software, students could move at their own pace.

“The good thing about Aleks was while there were still kids that were on topics I had already passed, I could either explain it to them or move on,” one student recalls. “I wouldn’t have to be bored in the rest of the class.” Instead of waiting for the teacher to grade quizzes or review homework problems, students received immediate feedback on their work, and were able to spend extra time practicing the kinds of problems that they were struggling with. For especially advanced topics, students could use the program’s videos for extra explanation and reinforcement.

But even without the program’s analytics to tell him the difference, Mabley could see it with his own eyes. Students in the pilot were much more engaged than those in the traditional lecture-based class – they had taken responsibility for their learning, a skill arguably as important as the topics they were mastering in Algebra.

Check out the St. Andrew’s video about their blended learning experiment here!