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  • The Good Part of Learning Struggle

    by LearnEd

    A tired student

    brad opener-01

    "When a student struggles with learning, it's not always a crisis," says Brad Ermeling, a doctor of education at Pearson's Center for Educator Learning and Effectiveness. "In fact, a large body of research in psychology and math education shows that some forms of struggle are actually productive for student learning."

    can help-01

    This kind of thinking, in some ways, goes against the grain of how our education system has evolved.

    "Students who are always looking for the quick answer are not prepared to persist and struggle with difficult problems," Brad says. "Learners need to be pushed to think critically, struggle through tough questions, and apply what they've learned."

    Brad and a team of scientists are currently working with UCLA researchers to understand the causes and benefits of productive struggle. They want to help teachers and parents be more aware of how these concepts can improve student outcomes.

    Tips to Help Learners Who Are Struggling

    "Watching students struggle is uncomfortable," Brad says. "It's a hard concept to fully embrace and, sometimes, it's tough to tell the difference between productive struggle and unproductive struggle."

    When a child is laboring over a homework assignment, Brad suggests this approach for parents:

    "Try asking general questions like 'Can you tell me what the question is asking?' If they can articulate the question, then let them work through the problem. If they're grasping what the question is asking, then they're on the right track to figuring out the answer."

    struggle tips

    In this video, Brad shares some additional tips for parents helping their little learners with math:

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  • Future Graduate Update: One Girl's Tribute to Her Teachers

    by LearnEd

    Speech bubble illustration

    Pearson and America’s Promise are working together to help communities raise graduation rates for students like this young woman who often fall through the cracks.

     

    Essence Blakemore is working hard to be a leader in her community.

    As such, she's busy: Essence is an active member of Minnesota Alliance with Youth, she is involved with the Minnesota Youth Council's Education Committee, she assisted the Minnesota Department of Education secure grant money for after-school programs, and she helped write a bill to make the Minnesota Youth Council an official liaison to the governor's office and legislature.

    Essence also plays the guitar, draws with pastels, knits, crochets, and writes poetry and short stories.

    In this video, Essence’s covers one of the five America’s Promise Alliance promises, which is an ongoing relationship with a “Caring Adult”—a parent, mentor, tutor or coaches who helps keep a young person motivated.

    The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson working to increase high school graduation rates to 90 percent. It's programs like the ones Essence supports that help keep students motivated to stay in school.

    Today, Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education and America’s Promise Alliance will host a webinar discussing the latest data findings on graduation rates in the U.S. To register, please click here. To learn more about the GradNation State Activation program, please click here

    Essence Blakemore on Caring Adults from Pearson Learning News on Vimeo.

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  • Graduate Update: The Teacher That Almost Wasn't

    by LearnEd

    Speech bubble illustration

    Josh Graphic-01

    Pearson and America’s Promise are working together to help communities raise graduation rates for students like this young man who often fall through the cracks.

     

    Josh Wood grew up in Northfield, Minnesota in a difficult home. He became disengaged from school—and he stopped going altogether while in the 8th grade.

    It was during that year that his school’s truancy officer invited him to join Summer Plus, a school program with kids in similar circumstances. Josh quickly became interested in school again and, starting in the 9th grade, he was paired with an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow who helped him with academics and study skills.

    Josh says this early intervention helped him graduate high school with a total of 24 college credits. He says it helped him go on to graduate from Hamline University. And he says, without it all, he probably wouldn't be a 4th grade teacher today.

    The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson working to increase high school graduation rates to 90 percent. It's programs like AmeriCorps Promise Fellows, a team of individuals that ensure youth success, that keep students like Josh motivated to stay in school.

    Hear Josh's story in his own words:

    Today, Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education and America’s Promise Alliance will host a webinar discussing the latest data findings on graduation rates in the U.S. To register, please click here. To learn more about the GradNation State Activation program, please click here.


    Josh Wood's Improbable Return to School
    from Pearson Learning News on Vimeo.

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  • Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees

    by LearnEd

    Kid walking along a Syrian street

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    Syria’s ongoing civil war has displaced and disrupted the lives of millions of people, especially children. Save the Children and Pearson have joined forces to research and develop long-term solutions for the education issues facing Syria’s children. This is the first in a series of reports detailing work that will span the next several months.

    Syria's Refugee Children

    Walk into nearly any classroom in Jordan and you’ll see schools overflowing with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children displaced by war. Jordan’s schools are overwhelmed—and so are the children inside those classrooms.

    It's an illustration of how Syria’s civil war has caused dramatic disruption in the education of an entire generation of children.

    "Some classes have over 60 children," says Teodora Berkova, Director of Social Innovation at Pearson. "Syrian kids are used to different curriculums, there's bullying in class. Many of the kids are dealing with trauma from what they’ve lived through during the conflict in Syria."

    Teodora has just returned from Jordan with her team after they conducted four weeks of field work.

    "We wanted to take a deeper look at the problems," Teodora says, "to help improve the educational opportunities available to both the Syrian refugees and communities in Jordan."

    Mapping a Child's 'Social Ecology'

    Teodora leads a unique collaboration between Pearson and Save the Children to improve learning for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It’s more than just a corporate program to support a good cause.

    Pearson brings learning research expertise and innovation to the partnership. Save the Children has been serving children in conflict zones for decades. Both organizations are combining their expertise to look for solutions in what appears to be a long-term disruption in the education of Syria’s young people. This collaboration began late last year with an on-the-ground research process to take an in-depth look at life for refugee children.

    "We started by getting as much information as possible about what's happening every day in a refugee child’s life," Teodora says.

    They spoke with close to 30 families from Syria, Jordan and Iraq, spending five to six hours, several times a week, with 16 of these families.

    "We went on errands with them," Teodora says. "One family invited us to church. Another invited us over for dinner so we could cook together."

    Teodora says the team was looking at academic, psychological, and emotional needs: "From a research perspective, having so much face to face time to get to such a level of dialogue and observation is pretty amazing."

    "It's not just the whole child," Teodora says, "it's the whole child in their social ecology."

     

    A Pilot Program

    Teodora and a team of six other researchers are just starting to dig through and analyze their field notes. They'll gather in the next few weeks to iron out takeaways from their research.

    "There's always the urge—for good reasons—to rush towards a quick solution in a project like this," Teodora says. "For us, though, we really wanted to spend enough time in the field to understand the refugee context fully, so that whatever we develop is effective and relevant for the unique needs of kids facing these circumstances.”

    As the region's refugee crisis and its impact on child learning goes on, Teodora's team is hoping to start piloting new learning ideas for Syrian refugees in 2016. Solutions could include programs aimed at preventing kids who are in school from dropping out, to digital solutions that provide access to learning for those who are currently out of school.

    Look for more updates on the results of the research and how it’s being implemented by Pearson and Save the Children. For more information on this partnership, please visit our ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership webpage.

     

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  • Opinion: How Pearson Sees the Future of Tests

    by LearnEd

    Smiling kids

    This essay from Pearson's Dr. Kimberly O'Malley originally appeared as an opinion piece on Newsweek.com in November. Dr. O'Malley is Pearson's Senior Vice President for Research and Development.

    few, better

    As students across the United States start the second half of the school year, a springtime tradition has been challenged by the White House.

    In a video posted to Facebook, President Barack Obama made a call for fewer, better tests, saying that current policies, including those from his own administration, have taken “the joy out of teaching and learning.” Many in the education world applauded his move.

    As the world’s leading education company, many commentators immediately jumped to the conclusion that Pearson would oppose this suggested shift in policy. But, I have a different message for educators, parents and students: We agree with the president.

    21ST CENTURY SKILLS

    It should not be surprising that we agree with the president. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of Pearson employees worked in schools. We are teachers, administrators, counselors and clinicians. I am a Texas public school teacher who taught for seven years, working with English learners and students in special and general education.

    At Pearson, we embrace the approach to fewer, better assessments. We’ve been researching and developing better, more effective alternatives to traditional tests for years. We know that a No. 2 pencil and paper tests are not the only tools of today’s test takers. Tests that can measure if students are prepared to succeed in the global economy must be based on 21st- century skills and be founded on 21st-century research and innovation.

    As states and districts move toward a modernized approach to teaching and learning, we need a modernized approach to feedback. New tests need to be more efficient and assessment can even be invisible, allowing us to reduce the amount of time students spend taking tests.

    NEW ASSESSMENT TECHNOLOGY

    According to a report from the Council of Great City Schools, students in the 66 largest urban school districts sat for tests more than 6,570 times in the 2014-15 school year. Even the most ardent test supporters have to acknowledge that this number is too high.

    New assessment technology can enable better insights about student skills and knowledge, getting teachers, parents and students feedback more quickly. From digital games to authentic and engaging performance tasks, educators can gather information about student progress without disrupting the learning process.

    And we don’t just have professional researchers and scientists working on the next breakthrough in assessments and learning tools. We work directly with students. At our first-of-its-kind, Kids CoLab, we create learning tools at a peer-to-peer level with students. They design with us and through this research-based process, we get their feedback, suggestions and ideas on what they want to see in the classroom.

    These new tools are not just concepts and prototypes, waiting to be implemented down the road. For example, through the research of my dedicated colleagues like Dr. Kristen DiCerbo, we helped launch SimCityEdu, which uses a game to better understand middle schoolers’ motivations and their persistence in dealing with a simulated pollution problem. By understanding how students move through the game and overcome challenges, teachers can learn so much more than just a right/wrong final answer.

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    NEW APPROACHES TO TESTING

    Pearson has dedicated significant resources to the research and development of new types of assessments because we know the value and importance of getting better feedback to students, teachers and learners. Assessment results provide insights about what students know and can do, but they certainly don’t have to look like yesterday’s test to do so.

    While we work to make tests as efficient, effective and innovative as possible, we are already supporting states that are moving toward fewer tests. The PARCC consortium and the state of Virginia are two examples of Pearson partners who have announced they are reducing testing time. We are proud to help them implement that decision. Pearson has a long history serving states in how they choose to raise academic standards and better prepare our young people for college and careers in a global marketplace.

    It is in this light that we are excited about new approaches to testing. The technology exists to improve testing. The technology exists to reduce the numbers of tests. And the technology exists to give feedback about whether our students are on track to succeed in a global workforce.

    Pearson is ready to be a partner in this effort to improve learning. We are devoted to helping policy makers, educators and families create new opportunities for every stage of the learning journey. We are parents and community members too and we know that there is nothing better than the look on a child’s face when a new concept “clicks” or they master a new skill.

    The president has challenged the education community to make teaching and learning more fun again. We are ready for the challenge.

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