SOURCE: SRI International

June 11, 2008 08:00 ET

SRI International's Evaluation of TechPALS Software Shows Promising Results in Teaching Fractions

MENLO PARK, CA--(Marketwire - June 11, 2008) - SRI International today released the results of its evaluation of the Technology-Mediated Peer-Assisted Learning (TechPALS) software program, showing that students learned more using TechPALS technology. SRI researchers evaluated the effectiveness of TechPALS for improving students' mastery of fractions. The evaluation was funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) in 2006. SRI will present its results at the IES research conference on June 12 in Washington, D.C.

The Benefits of Structured Collaborative Learning Technology

TechPALS software was originally developed by Professor Miguel Nussbaum of the Universidad Catolica of Santiago, Chile. SRI selected the TechPALS software after a positive preliminary evaluation of the technology in Chile. SRI has since further adapted the technology for teaching fractions to elementary age students and added content relevant to California's mathematics standards. In the evaluation research, TechPALS software was compared to popular, Internet-based educational software.

"A key feature of the TechPALS software is that it supports cooperative 'practice' of conceptually difficult math concepts, coupled with a system of interactive feedback for the student," said Jeremy Roschelle, co-director of SRI's Center for Technology in Learning. "Using TechPALS, we found that students were much more cooperative with each other. They asked questions, helped to explain the concepts to each other, and in some cases, challenged each other's answers. With the conventional software we tested, students were relatively isolated in their learning environment. We believe the collaborative nature of TechPALS accounts for the higher test scores."

Laying the Groundwork for Effective Math Education

A robust understanding of rational numbers is relevant to a broad age range and is fundamental to work in algebra. Based on the strength of these initial results, SRI will propose the development of a full curriculum for both fourth- and fifth-graders. The team will continue its work by developing larger-scale TechPALS studies similar to the successful SimCalc program, which showed dramatic results in teaching advanced math concepts to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Methodology

The project scope included development and adaptation of instructional and assessment materials, development of observation measures and protocols, and initial piloting and revisions based on a pilot project. SRI conducted randomized assignment studies investigating the potential efficacy of the approach to teaching rational numbers and examined how teachers are able to use feedback from the system to adapt instruction and the resulting impact on student achievement.

This spring, a total of 161 students in six classrooms across three schools were evaluated using the TechPALS software. Each teacher was trained and received a wireless handheld device with a unique teacher display.

Hewlett-Packard provided vital support with the donation of over 100 handheld computers, enabling the project to test TechPALS in several schools simultaneously.

About SRI's Center for Technology in Learning

SRI's Center for Technology in Learning (CTL) is world-renowned for its design, evaluation, and implementation of educational technologies. The staff, including psychologists, computer scientists, content specialists, anthropologists and educators, conducts innovative research and development for clients such as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, Texas Instruments, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International (www.sri.com) is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. Founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946, SRI has been meeting the strategic needs of clients and partners for more than 60 years. The nonprofit research institute performs client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, businesses, and foundations. In addition to conducting contract R&D, SRI licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships, and creates spin-off companies.

Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Ellie Javadi
    SRI International
    (650) 859-4874
    Email Contact