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IES Grant

Title: Getting Fractions Right with Technology-Mediated Peer-Assisted Learning (TechPALS)
Center: NCER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Roschelle, Jeremy Awardee: SRI International
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $527,077
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305K060011
Description:

Purpose: In 2003, the Independent Review Panel on Title One Assessment invited a comprehensive review of high quality experimental studies in elementary mathematics education aimed at improving the performance of low-achieving students. This review identified the two most productive strategies as: (1) providing feedback to teachers and students, and (2) peer-assisted learning. This project seeks to integrate these strategies through the use of technology, thus enabling more teachers to implement these strategies successfully. Technology can make rapid and comprehensive feedback available to students and teachers. Further, technology can ensure the incorporation of factors associated with the successful implementation of peer-assisted learning, such as individual accountability and positive interdependence. Prior research suggests that when these factors are implemented correctly, students' mathematics achievement increases; some studies suggest a particular benefit for low-achieving students.

Project Activities: The researchers will develop an intervention called TechPALS, which uses handheld computers to teach fractions in the context of peer-assisted learning. In TechPALS, a set of four mathematics-related activities will cover a range of important concepts and skills related to rational numbers and fractions. The TechPALS software will be driven by a database of mathematics tasks, each of which draws upon and targets well-known difficulties in learning fractions.

Products: The products from this project include a computer-based instructional program for learning fractions in a peer-assisted context, and published papers.

Setting: The research will be conducted in California.

Population: Participants will be fourth grade students in four elementary schools that serve primarily inner city, low income children.

Intervention: The researchers will develop an intervention called TechPALS, which uses handheld computers to teach fractions in the context of peer-assisted learning. In TechPALS, a set of four mathematics-related activities will cover a range of important concepts and skills related to rational numbers and fractions. The TechPALS software will be driven by a database of mathematics tasks, each of which draws upon and targets well-known difficulties in learning fractions. Experiment 1 will examine whether students assigned to the TechPALS intervention (comprised of training, content, activity structures, and handheld computers) will outperform students assigned to work individually in a computer lab. Experiment 2 will investigate whether students who use TechPALS in conjunction with teacher feedback will outperform students who use TechPALS in a classroom in which the intervention occurs in the absence of teacher feedback. In the teacher-feedback condition, feedback about group performance will be made available to the teacher. In addition, the teacher will be asked to follow a script in interacting with students. If they observe the majority of the class to be answering incorrectly on a particular task, they will stop the group work and re-teach the whole class how to do that task. Otherwise, they will offer coaching to groups in proportion to how much trouble the groups are having.

Research Design and Methods: For the two experimental studies, the researchers will assign students at random to treatment or control conditions. Random assignment will take place within rather than across schools, mixing students from each classroom into each treatment group. Hence, roughly half the students from Teacher A and Teacher B will form Group 1; the other half of the students from Teacher A and Teacher B will form Group 2.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students will use well-known, standard mathematics computer software on desktop computers, and will work individually in a computer lab.

Key Measures: The researchers will employ one outcome measure of student achievement in mathematics, the commercially available ITBS math computation subtest.

Data Analytic Strategy: The primary analytic strategy is hierarchical linear modeling.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Roschelle, J., Rafanan, K., Bhanot, R., Estrella, G., Penuel, W.R., Nussbaum, M., and Claro, S. (2010). Scaffolding Group Explanation and Feedback with Handheld Technology: Impact on Students' Mathematics Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(4): 399–419.

Roschelle, J., Rafanan, K., Estrella, G., Nussbaum, M., and Claro, S. (2010). From Handheld Collaborative Tool to Effect Classroom Module: Embedding CSCL in a Broader Design Framework. Computers & Education, 55(3): 1018–1026.

Proceeding

Rafanan, K., Roschelle, J., Bhanot, R., Gorges, T., and Penuel, W. (2008). Measuring Mathematics Discourse in Technology-Supported Collaborative Activities. In ICLS 2008, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Volume 3 (pp. 117–118). The Netherlands: International Society of the Learning Sciences.


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