A new design study published in Indiana University’s International Journal of Designs for Learning looks at Reasoning Mind’s approach to school support and implementation fidelity.
Reasoning Mind recently worked with nonprofit research institute SRI International to conduct a “design study” on the implementation of the Reasoning Mind digital 5th-grade core curriculum in several West Virginia campuses. The study was published in the July edition of the International Journal of Designs for Learning (IJDL) at Indiana University, and focuses on Reasoning Mind’s comprehensive approach to school support and implementation fidelity – particularly how that approach has evolved over time to be more scalable and meet the varying needs of many unique students, teachers, administrators, schools, and districts.
The full article is fascinating, and you can read it in its entirety here. However, if you’re in a rush – if, say, you’re a teacher in your first few weeks of school! – you can check out the highlights below.
1. No matter how “good” a digital learning solution is, without a strong implementation it won’t show strong results.
Plenty of digital curriculum programs show positive impacts on student learning when they’re evaluated in a few classrooms. However, the article makes the point that, when these digital solutions expand to more schools, they’re often employed in inconsistent ways that result in mixed outcomes. On the other hand, the article points out that “when evaluations of technologies for mathematics learning have found stable positive effects, attention to the quality of implementation has often been a notable design feature.”
2. Reasoning Mind’s Implementation Coordinators are crucial to the successful implementation of the 5th-grade core curriculum in schools.
The role of Reasoning Mind’s Implementation Coordinators (ICs) was originally most closely aligned to a role providing professional development (PD) to teachers. However, it soon became apparent that classrooms would be more successful if they received more support than just PD. The IC role eventually evolved to encompass everything required to achieve the desired quality of implementation in each Reasoning Mind classroom, from supporting administrators in finding solutions to school-specific difficulties, to communicating needed system improvements back to the Reasoning Mind team.
Reasoning Mind’s Implementation Coordinators (ICs) in West Virginia are responsible for supporting schools and promoting high-fidelity implementations, which result in better outcomes for students.
3. The best improvements to a digital curriculum are often the ones suggested by teachers and administrators.
As Reasoning Mind has expanded, the organization has seen the need to engage teachers and administrators in figuring out the best ways to improve the system and its implementation. The recently-launched online resource called the Reasoning Mind Community gives teachers and administrators this opportunity. In addition to providing teachers access to student data reports, professional development materials, curriculum resources, and tech support services, the Reasoning Mind Community has also provided an avenue to suggest improvements to Reasoning Mind’s programs and implementation structures. Teachers support each other and share ideas through the “Collaborate” forum, and submit ideas for program improvements to Reasoning Mind through the “Ideas” tab.
4. Schools do best with clear implementation guidelines – but student growth, not adherence to the guidelines, should be the end goal.
Reasoning Mind found that giving a clear set of implementation guidelines – and an accompanying “implementation rubric” – helped schools recognize in which areas their implementations were improving and in which areas there was room for growth. However, such a rubric had its problems. Some schools, aiming for achieving the goals outlined by the rubric, failed to achieve strong student results. Others were developing new best practices, but had trouble spreading them because they conflicted with the rubric. In the end, Reasoning Mind discarded the rubric format and refocused implementation goals on student outcomes, with the implementation guidelines being recommendations on how to achieve said student outcomes.
The Reasoning Mind Community—an online resource and collaboration tool—allows teachers to submit and vote on ideas for improvements or enhancements.
5. Regional differences are important.
Education varies from state to state, especially when it comes to the ways districts and schools are managed. For example, Texas tends to have very large school districts, whereas West Virginia has small ones. When Reasoning Mind started to expand outside of Texas – where it was founded – it continued managing implementation roles from there. However, the organization soon recognized the need for regional implementation teams to be managed by people who understood the particularities of their regions. For this reason, Reasoning Mind developed a new role for Regional Implementation Managers, so that implementation support could be specifically tailored to the needs of each region.
6. Teachers using Reasoning Mind were more positive about their curriculum experience than a control group.
As part of the study, Reasoning Mind teachers and non-Reasoning Mind teachers took an end of year survey. Teachers using Reasoning Mind – and thus receiving extensive support – were much more positive about their curriculum experience. Additionally, 97% of teachers using Reasoning Mind were “completely satisfied” with their implementation support. The study concludes that “teachers’ positive response to Reasoning Mind appears to be related to the features of implementation cited in this article.”
“[IC] was always very helpful and supportive. She was quick with responses and very reassuring during classroom visits. She made our transition to using Reasoning Mind very easy.”
“[IC] is always helpful in all communication and feedback that I need to be successful. She makes me feel at ease and is quick to respond when I have questions.”
“[IC] was great to answer all questions that I had. She always responded to emails within a day and was always able to be reached. Her PD was also very useful. My students enjoyed seeing her when she came to my class.”
“[IC] was very dependable and helpful anytime I needed her. I contacted her several times with questions or concerns that I had. She even came to my class to model a lesson that I did not understand.”
Above: End of year survey responses from teachers on their experience with Reasoning Mind’s Implementation Coordinators (ICs).
Those are just a few of the major takeaways from the article. If you’re interested in learning more about Reasoning Mind’s approach to school support and implementation quality, we encourage you to read the article in its entirety here.
We’d like to thank Jeremy Roschelle (Co-Director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International), Steven Gaudino (Vice President of Program and Product Management at Reasoning Mind), and Samantha Darling (Associate Director of Implementation at Reasoning Mind) for their work on this article. And most of all, we want to thank all of the teachers and administrators who inspire Reasoning Mind to constantly improve its programs and implementation practices. Together, we’ll provide a first-rate math education to every child!