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  • Demystifying Artificial Intelligence In Learning

    Young adult using a laptop computer

    IBM and Pearson have a new global alliance to make the Watson technology’s cognitive capabilities available to millions of college students and professors. Independent learning scientist Rose Luckin says artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize education, “but never replace teachers.”

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  • The Next Generation of Health Professionals, Learning With Next Generation Tools

    A health professional using a laptop

    “Although we knew there was a critical shortage, we weren’t sure we even wanted to go online,” says Dr. Charles Gulas, Dean of the College of Health Professions at Maryville University in St. Louis.

    “We didn’t have the technical expertise to move academic programs online,” he says. “But we knew we wanted to offer online students the same quality of excellence our on-ground students were already getting.”

    So, Chuck says, they partnered with Pearson—and the Maryville faculty started to walk through what online learning could be.

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  • EU referendum position

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    UK Flags

    Many people have asked me about Pearson's response to the recent result of the UK's referendum on membership of the EU. Here is a note that I shared with Pearson's colleagues last Friday (06.24.16) immediately after the result.


    Dear Colleagues,

    I am writing to share some immediate thoughts in the light of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

    These are clearly uncertain times for the UK and for Europe. Pearson’s view throughout the campaign was that the UK was better off within the EU. Of course we fully respect the democratic decision that has been taken and, for Pearson, we will now focus on forging a successful path in a new context.

    Pearson is in a strong position. More than half of our revenues are from the US, in dollars. We have a solid balance sheet with low debt, and this will enable us to weather uncertainties.

    Although we care deeply about the UK, we are the world’s learning company. We will continue to be advocates for a world that is more open and connected. It is vital that the UK’s world class universities should continue to attract the brightest young people from around the world to enrich our education community.

    For now, the important thing for us all is to stay focused on our business and our customers. We will take our time and work through every implication for our business and our growth. We will also play our part in helping maintain the outward-looking United Kingdom and globally connected education community that are in the interests of us all.


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  • How do we give Americans better access to opportunity?

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    Two men looking at a sun dial

    As I travel the world talking to students and educators, the most urgent questions I hear are variations on the same themes: How do I create a better life for myself and my children? What is the social compact that gets us all there, and who is responsible for creating it? Those are questions fundamental to achieving the American dream—a dream that resonates worldwide.

    These critical questions are also at the core of many Americans’ concerns that economic progress is out of reach and that the dream is fleeting now more than ever. These concerns have surfaced more urgently within the context of the Presidential campaign, and have been foundational to candidates’ views on both sides of the aisle.

    To understand the dynamics that underlie these concerns, Pearson conducted a poll with Atlantic Media as part of their “Next America” series, seeking to examine Americans’ views on these issues. The results were revealing: More people than ever believe they don’t have a reasonable shot at creating opportunity in this country. Shockingly, and in contrast to the basic tenets core to the United States, fewer than half of all Americans—just 44%—believe that anyone who works hard has a fair chance to succeed.

    Next America Poll - San Antonio (15)

    When you start to break this down along demographic lines, faith in the promise of American opportunity becomes even more strained. Fewer than 40% of African Americans believe that someone who works hard has a fair chance to succeed. The research shows that Asian and Hispanic Americans are still hanging on to the American dream, but are only marginally more confident that they have a real shot at success.

    Next America Poll - San Antonio (16)

    While this data is discouraging, there is hope. The poll results evidenced a shared view in the promise of education and the belief that if people have access to education designed specifically to improve their skills, their views of the opportunity would improve. Almost three-quarters of Americans—72%—believe they would be able to get a better job or a higher paying job with more education or training.

    Two-thirds of Americans believe the economy would improve by increasing the number of well-trained workers and people see investment in education as the best way to improve the economy.

    It’s clear that people of all backgrounds see education as the gateway to a better life.

    While educators, policymakers and employers are key in helping people prepare for the workforce, companies who are focused on education, like Pearson, have an important role to play. Building the tools to lead people to better jobs and a better life is fundamental to Pearson’s mission. We’re especially focused on closing the skills gap to give people more access to jobs and better opportunity. At schools like Texas Southmost College in the Rio Grande Valley, we are providing digital curriculum that prepares graduates for high tech and health care jobs in their local communities. Across the nation, we are working with colleges and universities to move degree programs online, often putting up the capital to get these programs off the ground. And, we are supporting adult learners with the GED and our professional testing services.

    There are urgent educational and economic needs across this country. That is never more evident than when people feel opportunity is out of reach, and the American Dream is out of sight. Together we can meet these challenges and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to create a better life for themselves.


    Here are some other highlights from the full poll results, which you can read in full here.



    Next America Poll - San Antonio (7)


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  • Britain and the EU

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    Man walking and wearing a back pack and wooly hat

    Now that the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union has been set for June 2016, lots of organisations and people are asking what Pearson thinks about the issue.

    First and foremost, we think this is a decision for the British people to make, and no doubt there will be a range of opinions within Pearson, as there are across the country. Each of us in the UK has a vote, and will use it as we see fit.

    We have though been asked by some organisations on both sides of the debate what Pearson's position is and we think it's right to take a view.

    Only a small proportion of Pearson's business relies directly on trade between the UK and the rest of the EU. Nonetheless, we have carried out analysis of how Britain leaving the EU would affect Pearson across a number of regulatory and financial aspects. This analysis has concluded that Pearson would be better served by the UK remaining part of the EU.

    As part of Britain and Europe's education community, we see the considerable value that British membership of the EU brings to universities, colleges, schools, teachers, students and pupils.

    As a global business based in the UK, we believe that Britain, its businesses and its people are, on the whole, better off as part of Europe.

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  • Educate the lost generation before it's too late

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    A girl being creative

    One of the less visible victims of the Syrian conflict has been education. The war has left almost three million Syrian children out of school - those that have stayed and the refugees who have fled. As the crisis continues to worsen, we need to focus on how to educate these children before they become a "lost generation". I attended a discussion this morning in London as part of the Supporting Syria event led by the governments of the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, and the United Nations. Education was, rightly, high on the agenda.

    It is not enough to sit around and say that something must be done. It is not enough to leave it to governments, to hope the private sector will invest, or to rely on NGOs to bring assistance and order. It is not even enough for those of us with the ​power and responsibility to ‘act’. We have to act together to make the biggest impact we can​.

    For Pearson, that means sharing our expertise in delivering educational products and services at scale. We have the know-how - every year our products help many millions of teachers and students, of all ages, all over the world. But we have little experience of operating in conflict zones or refugee camps or dealing with the trauma of those who have been affected by war.

    That’s why we launched “Every Child Learning” nearly a year ago - a three year partnership with Save the Children that’s increasing educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and their host communities. The partnership has already provided two education centres in Amman, Jordan which are educating 1,400 Syrian five to 13 year olds. We’ve also committed £1m to research, to understand the sort of learning experiences that are needed and will work on the ground.

    If our partnership can have a positive impact for Syrian child refugees, we'll move on and see how we can help teach children affected by wars and emergencies in other parts of the world too.

    Education in emergencies and conflicts remains the most underfunded of all humanitarian areas. According to UNESCO only 2% of global humanitarian aid was allocated to education in 2014. Yet improving the provision of quality education in these settings will often be the catalyst to peace and stability. The challenge may be great, but the prize is much greater.

    All of us involved in education have a responsibility to ensure that there's no lost generation in Syria, or anywhere else in the world. At Pearson we’ll continue to work with others on all sorts of challenges - our allies in the Global Business Coalition for Education, our partners in Project Literacy, our business colleagues at the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund - anyone who believes like us that the best way to help people make progress in their lives is through access to quality education. It’s a responsibility that eclipses sectors or politics or ideologies. It is, very simply, a battle for the basic human right to learn.


    Read more about 'Every Child Learning'.

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  • Reaching and inspiring today’s students

    by Andy Moss

    Photo of an inspired student. Credit Angela Ithyle

    Last month, I had the pleasure of hosting a number of customers at our annual HE sales conference in Brighton. Our speakers came from a range of institutions, disciplines and countries, and yet I was struck by a common thread that unites their work: a passion for re-inventing teaching; for finding new ways to reach and inspire today’s students.

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  • Higher Education – in with the new

    by Andy Moss

    Illustration of New Horizons by Tang Yau Hoong

    It’s inevitable at the start of a New Year to reflect on the twelve months that have just gone by, and to look ahead with anticipation. So having just completed my first year leading Pearson’s Higher Education business in the UK, I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts on what 2017 might hold in store for us.

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  • Designing for Learning: Pearson’s Learning Design Principles

    by David Porcaro

    Illustration of a path to learning. Credit Lauren Rolwing

    As I write this blogpost, I occasionally stare out my window to the Rocky Mountains looming above me. It’s amazing to think that these 4200m/14,000 ft mountains were formed by a series of small tremors and occasional larger seismic movements. Likewise, the tectonic plates of education are shifting, and seismic ripples are apparent globally.

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  • How Technology Can Boost Student Engagement

    Kids interacting with a table touch screen

    Gallup’s 2013 State of America’s Schools reported that 55% of US K-12 students are “engaged” in the learning process, while 28% are “not engaged,” and 17% are “actively disengaged.”

    Technology may be one of the keys to increasing the number of engaged students in America’s classrooms. In our multi-phase Teaching in a Digital Age study, we are working with many partners to research digital teaching strategies and how they positively affect student learning. One of these positive effects reported by educators is the increased intensity of student engagement that occurs when technology is integrated into the classroom.

    Technology as a tool helps teachers create and present content and instruction that is interesting and relevant to students. When learning is relevant to students, then they become engaged, active learners. How does this happen?

    With increased access to learning resources, tools and information, students are drawn deeper into a topic than ever before. They can even direct their own learning. In fact, when done well, students don’t just learn with technology- they create. One educator noted:

    “When students have this technology, they can create things. They can innovate things…. When they have Photoshop in front of them and I say do this, this, and this, what they can create is always going to be completely, uniquely different. And, they become artists with that or they become filmmakers, or they become web designers. Like they can take on a lot of really advanced roles, and I think that’s something that technology does uniquely provide, because you can’t be a web designer without that technology. You can’t create a film without that technology. And, I feel like that’s really different than a textbook…let me let you take your creativity, and using this technology, create something I would have never made.”

    Educators in Meridian, Idaho noted the misconception that students are only engaged individually with technology. Their classrooms don’t look like separate students glued to a screen. Instead, educators can direct students to engage collaboratively with the use of technology. With technology, collaboration among students is easier and broader. It also opens doors to widen the audience and purpose of student work, giving meaning to the schoolwork.

    And, with increased student engagement, comes increased learning. There is a strong research base that describes how technology strengthens student engagement and learning. For example, active learning is associated with improved student academic performance (Hake, 1998; Knight & Wood, 2005; Michael, 2006; Freeman, et al., 2007; Chaplin, 2009), and increased student engagement, critical thinking, and better attitudes toward learning (O’Dowd & Aguilar-Roca, 2009). Read more in my paper Teaching in a Digital Age.

    If technology supports teachers’ efforts to focus on effective practices that engage students, then we have another tool to engage that half of US students who aren’t currently engaged.

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  • Part 2: How learning progressions can help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring

    Girl in Chemistry class

    In my previous blog, I talked about the difference between progress monitoring and monitoring progress. Today, I share my ideas of how learning progressions can inform both.

    The key to monitoring progress is understanding what students know and don’t know at any given time. Learning progressions use research on how students learn to clearly define the learning pathway and conceptual milestones along that pathway. For example, my fourth grader’s teacher could compare his work to learning progressions so that she understands more clearly what he knows, and what she can do to move him most efficiently from his “check-minuses” to “check-plusses”.

    In progress monitoring, teachers use data on a regular basis to understand students’ learning rates, but it is up to the teacher to formulate an instructional response. If the CBM slope is flat, the instructional next steps may not be entirely clear. If CBMs were linked to learning progressions, it could enhance progress monitoring by making clear how students are approaching problems and what misconceptions are preventing their progress.

    The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) states that effective progress monitoring (NRCLD, 2006, p. 22):

    1. Assesses the specific skills represented in state and local academic standards.
    2. Assesses marker variables that have been demonstrated to lead to the ultimate instructional targets.
    3. Is sensitive to small increments of growth over time.
    4. Is administered efficiently over short periods.
    5. Is administered repeatedly (using multiple forms).
    6. Results in data that can be summarized in teacher-friendly data displays.
    7. Is comparable across students.
    8. Is applicable for monitoring an individual student’s progress over time.
    9. Is relevant to the development of instructional strategies and use of appropriate curriculum that address the area of need.

    These characteristics are quite similar to some of the features of learning progressions:

    • Many learning progressions have been linked to standards, such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (#1).
    • What the NRCLD refers to as “marker variables” are commonly referred to in learning progressions as “levels of achievement,” or the conceptual milestones that students pass through as they are learning in a particular domain (#2).
    • The sensitivity to small increments of growth over time is related to the grain size of a learning progression; to be useful for formative assessments learning progressions usually need to have a relatively fine grain size (#3).
    • Formative assessments based on learning progressions should also be administered efficiently and repeatedly, and should be useful for monitoring students’ progress over time (#4 ,#5, and #8).
    • Because learning progressions are based on the scientific literature describing how typical students learn, assessments based on learning progressions should be comparable for most students, although it is necessary to collect empirical evidence that particular subgroups of students follow the same learning pathways (#7).
    • One of the most promising aspects of learning progressions is the potential for providing teachers with instructionally actionable information in the form of “teacher-friendly” student and classroom performance reports and instructional tools and resources that are aligned to the learning progression (#6 and #9). We are engaging in research to learn about the inferences that teachers make from learning progression-based assessment reports. Stay tuned to learn more about these efforts as the year unfolds.

    Can learning progressions live up to their promise and really help educators monitor progress and conduct progress monitoring? It is still too early to tell, but there is some encouraging research showing that with ample training and support, teachers can use learning progressions as a framework for their formative assessment and instruction and by doing so, they come to better understand their students’ learning pathways.

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  • Part 1: Monitoring Progress, Progress Monitoring and Learning Progressions–What IS the difference?

    Boy in Chemistry class

    What do these three terms have in common? Progress, of course. Educators and parents across the globe all want to enable their students to make progress. When my fourth grader’s teacher sends home a weekly folder with his work samples and tests, a “check” or a “check-plus” tells me that he gets it, or he pretty much gets it, and a “check-minus” gives me the impression that he has more work to do, but I don’t know what pathway he needs to take to move from the “check-minus” to the “check-plus”, and what is the best way to get him there.

    Currently, educators frequently measure what students know and what they don’t know, but this “mastery measurement” does not provide information on students’ progress or learning pace so that they can ultimately meet the standards we set for them. Monitoring is an integral part of ensuring that students make progress, but what is the difference between monitoring progress and progress monitoring? They sound like they’re the same, don’t they? And how do learning progressions fit in? In previous posts I defined and described learning progressions and why the Research & Innovation Network thinks they have promise. In today’s post (Part 1) I will distinguish monitoring progress from progress monitoring. In Part 2, I’ll share ideas of how I think learning progressions can inform both.

    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies. All teachers monitor their students’ progress throughout the year, using a variety of strategies, but these strategies are not standardized and vary greatly in quantity and quality. Formative assessment plays an important role in monitoring progress, but some teachers are more comfortable with formative assessment than others, and all teachers could use tools and resources that would make conducting formative assessment easier.
    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies.

    Progress monitoring is a term used to describe a formal part of Response to Intervention (RTI); it is a scientifically based practice used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. It was originally designed for use in individualized special education, but is now seen as a useful approach for many different types of students (Safer & Fleischman, 2005). Teachers are trained to use student performance data to continually evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction. Students’ current levels of performance are determined and measured on a regular basis. Progress toward meeting goals is measured by comparing expected and actual rates of learning, and teachers are prompted to adjust their instruction based on these measurements.

    Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is one type of progress monitoring. A CBM test assesses all of the skills covered in a curriculum over the course of a school year. Each weekly test is an alternate form (with different test items but of equivalent difficulty) so that scores can be compared over the school year. Students’ scores are graphed over time to show their progress (see examples here); scores are expected to rise as students are learning and are exposed to the curriculum. The rate of weekly improvement is quantified as the slope of the line, which teachers can compare to normative data. If scores are flat, it signals the need for additional intervention.

    How can learning progressions help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring? Stay tuned for ideas in my next blog.

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  • What does Proficient mean?

    by Katie McClarty

    Man and girl playing chess

    The end of the school year is a time for field trips, class parties, and final report cards. The iconic report card lets parents know how their student did that year and typically reflects attendance, participation, and performance in class. Parents generally understand how to interpret report card grades: A (great), C (average), or F (failing).

    The end of the year also is the time when many parents receive their child’s standardized test scores. These results, however, are not as easy to interpret. For example, in Massachusetts, a student who earns a score of 250 on the state test is considered proficient. In Washington, it takes a score of 400. Each state has its own assessments, and each defines proficiency differently.

    Now, however, nearly all the states have agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards as an outline of what students should be taught in mathematics and English language arts. Educators will use instructional materials appropriate for teaching students the knowledge, skills, and practices laid out in these documents. That should produce less variability in instruction state to state and district to district.

    In order to monitor how well students are learning this material, most of the states also have agreed to use one of two Common Core assessments that are being developed. That will make it possible for states to report results on a common scale: a 400 in English in Tennessee, for example, would be the same as a 400 in Florida. But the question remains: is 400 good enough?

    To answer that question, states set performance standards. Typically, this is done by educators and other experts who get together and look at assessments and agree on which questions or tasks a proficient (or advanced or in need of improvement) student should be expected to answer or complete. That information is then translated into a specific score. The same process can be used to analyze the quality of examples of student work.

    More recently, it’s become possible to answer the question of what is good enough more precisely, based not just on expert judgment but also on data. If by proficiency we mean that a student has learned enough in one grade to be ready to do well in the next one, we can test that definition by tracking how students actually perform. We can look at how well a group of students performs on a 5th grade math test and then look back at how those same kids had done on the 4th grade math test. Using statistics, we can then more accurately define what it means to be proficient in the 4th grade.

    This process is called Evidence Based Standard Setting, and because scores can be linked to future performance, it can give parents confidence that if their child is proficient, he or she has not only mastered an important set of knowledge and skills, but also is likely to be successful in the next grade. It can even give students and their parents a sense of whether they’re on track to do well after high school in college or in demanding career training programs. The scores can also help identify students who need extra help before it becomes too late, and parents, using this information, can advocate on their children’s behalf to make sure they receive that help.

    The familiar report card is but one source of information about how well students are doing in school. Test results linked to important future outcomes can provide another critical piece of information to teachers, parents, and students.

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