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LearnED Stories

  • 7 Ways to Help Kids Develop Creative Thinking

    by LearnEd

    Boy in a box prentending to fly


    Fostering Creative Thinking

    "Creative thinking is a skill that is very important for success in college and career," says Emily Lai, Director at Pearson's Center for Product Design Research and Efficacy.

    Emily says creative thought is essential for cultivating a child's love of learning—and equipping them with the skills they need for success in life.

    Where High Achievers Falls Short

    In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant wrote about how child prodigies who excel early in education may not perform so well later in life. He says in doing everything that they're supposed to do—and doing it well—early achievers are not necessarily developing the creativity that comes with coloring outside the lines.

    7 tips for creative thinking

    "What holds them back," writes Adam, "is that they don't learn to be original."

    "They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers."

    7 Ways to Help Kids Develop Creative Thinking

    Emily Lai offers these strategies to parents and teachers to help encourage kids to use creative thinking strategies and adopt creative thinking attitudes:


    You can find more resources for parents at ParentToolkit.com. Please visit our Facebook page to share tips and information on what's most relevant to parents and families when it comes to kids and learning.

  • 3 Ways to Prepare Your Child for the College Application Process

    by LearnEd

    Students at the start line

    The Graduating Class of 2025

    It's possible that students who are in third grade today will make up the largest-ever pool of U.S. college applicants when they graduate high school in 2025, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.

    Readiness Box

    Dr. Kimberly O'Malley, a senior researcher at Pearson, says it's important for students to start preparing for college or career success early.

    "Our research shows that learning lessons about things that go beyond academic achievement, like motivation or behavior, are key factors in a student's preparation for college," Kimberly says. "The good news," she says, "is that we can measure these factors as early as middle school, when there's time to intervene and help students get on track."

    Parents and College Readiness

    Parents play a fundamental role in their child’s education, especially as a partner with teachers and schools. Seventy-eight percent of parents acknowledge their role and say they sometimes unfairly blame schools for things that should be their responsibility, according to a 2015 national survey of parents conducted for NBC news.

    Here are three ways parents can develop their child's learning skills at any age:


    Seek out grade-appropriate tips for helping your child strengthen their learning abilities at every stage—in categories ranging from academic achievement, health and wellness, and social and emotional development. Parent Toolkit, produced by NBC News and supported by Pearson, provides benchmarks for students in these areas for each grade from pre-K through 12th grade.


    College Ready Box2

    Choose educational games to make learning fun. There are a number of options for parents to choose from in this area, including FunBrain, which offers more than 100 free educational games, online books, and comics suitable for kids in preschool and up to the 8th grade.


    College Ready Box 3

    Constantly seek opportunities to enhance your child’s learning. Parents can help their child set future goals, like, for example, college graduation. Discus the benefits of college and support their child’s passions by emphasizing on a regular basis how math, science, and social studies – or whatever subject interests them—can be a college major and/or a potential career track. Parents can take their child on college campus visits and for information sessions in order to bring a level of grounded reality to their goals and aspirations.


    You can find additional resources for parents at ParentToolkit.com. Please visit our Facebook page to share tips and information about what's most relevant to parents and caregivers when it comes to kids and learning.

  • How Character Traits Can Make Learning Better

    by LearnEd

    Photo of a green shoot

    Predicting College Readiness

    “It’s important to educate the whole child,” says Dr. Kimberly O’Malley, a senior researcher at Pearson.

    trait quote box

    “This year we did a study with middle school-aged students," Kimberly explains. "We looked at student achievement, but also motivation, behavior, social engagement, family circumstances and school characteristics. We learned that motivation and behavior together are substantially more important predictors of college readiness than achievement alone.”

    The Most Admired Character Traits

    Parents were asked in a 2015 Pew Research Center survey about the character traits they considered most important. Honesty and ethics topped the list that year. One year before, it was responsibility. Another study, the 2015 State of Parenting survey, found respect for others was the number one quality parents sought to cultivate in their children.

    Here are some practical ways parents can foster a child's character development as it relates to their learning:

    Character Traits

    Trait Box 1

    Ninety-four percent of parents in a 2014 Pew Research Center poll listed responsibility as an important trait for their child to possess. One tool that parents can use to teach and instill responsibility is the Talking With Trees online resource hub, which offers downloadable coloring pages that teach good character traits using illustrations and real-world examples.

    Trait Box 2

    Sixty-two percent of parents in a 2015 Pew Research Center poll said it’s extremely important for their child to be hardworking as an adult. One of the first steps to teaching the value of hard work is increasing the opportunities for children to do some work themselves.

    A suggestion: Start small by assigning simple chores and allowing your child to work alone to complete tasks.

    Trait Box 3

    Seventy-one percent of parents in the 2015 Pew poll cited honesty and ethics as important values.  Check out this tips guide from Making Caring Common, a project of Harvard University’s graduate school of education.

    A suggestion: Pick one day of the week and make notes of how honest you and you child were that day. Discuss your notes together. What are the things that surprise you?


    You can find additional resources for parents at ParentToolkit.com. Please visit our Facebook page to share tips and information about what's most relevant to parents and caregivers when it comes to kids and learning.

  • Five Puzzling Tips for You and Your Kids

    by LearnEd

    Puzzle on a table


    Read on to find a puzzle challenge ....

    With the latest and greatest technological gadgets, it can be puzzling how to entertain your kids. Sometimes the simpler toys, like board games, cards and puzzles can be just as entertaining as the gadgets.

    They can also be beneficial for your child’s growth and development.

    In celebration of National Puzzle Day, a national early childhood literacy non-profit called the Parent-Child Home Program has these tips on how to engage the family in puzzles to use motor skills, practice problem solving and work on task-oriented goals:

    1. Use Your “Magic Finger”

    Before beginning to piece the puzzle together, ask your kids to point out things they see and recognize. Depending on their age, ask them questions about the puzzle. For younger kids, ask them what kinds of items they see (animals, buildings or cars) or what kinds of colors or shapes they see (circle, hexagon, green or blue). For older kids, engage in some math problems asking how many puzzle pieces there are or by dividing the puzzle pieces by the number of people putting the puzzle together.

    Younger children may find it difficult to fit the pieces into place, and that’s okay! Be patient and adapt the activity to suit your child’s needs and skill level.


    2. Create Conversation

    One of the most foundational supports for cognitive and social-emotional development is language use and conversation. While pointing out colors, sizes, shapes and numbers, ask open-ended questions to strike up more conversation. Ask questions like: What objects in this room are the same color or size as that puzzle piece?

    3. Keep In Mind the Purpose

    Use every opportunity to help your children consciously attend to the activity at hand. This will support their cognitive development and promote language use. If they seem distracted, start a conversation around what they are instead interested in, perhaps connecting it back to the activity. They will likely come back to the puzzle on their own. When they do, help them reengage and make choices by asking if a puzzle piece you put down seems like the right fit.

    4. Think Outside the Box!

    Puzzles don’t have to be conventional, so get creative!

    • Mix all of the puzzle pieces in a bag or bowl and take turns pulling one out and naming it – this can easily be turned into a game of charades! This game works great with a farm puzzle.
    • Play a memory game by laying out all of the puzzle pieces and giving your children time to examine all the pieces. While they have their eyes closed, take one piece away and see if they can figure out which one is missing. Then give your child a turn to stump you!
    • With paper and writing utensils, invite your children to trace the puzzle pieces, and then color it in with their own details.

    You've come to the puzzle challenge! Congratulations. (Scroll down below the image for the answer.)

    ANSWER: Throw the ball straight up in the air.

    The Parent-Child Home Program’s (PCHP) nationwide network of program sites provides low-income families with the necessary skills and tools to ensure their children achieve their greatest potential in school and in life. Together we are strengthening families and communities, and preparing the workforce of the future.


  • Improving Learning Inside Folsom Prison

    by LearnEd

    Photo of an entrance

    Learning for All

    "Everyone is entitled to an education," says Pearson's Erin Smith. "Some of us just come to different opportunities at different stages in life."

    Erin has spearheaded a project along with colleagues LeeAnne Fisher and Kathryn Bass to put several dozen Pearson classroom e-books in the hands of about 300 inmates at California's Folsom Prison. She's working with tech company Innertainment Delivery Systems (IDS) to deliver these books digitally on secure, controlled tablets.

    The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) uses these eReaders for inmates working towards credits in college courses across the state's prison system through something called the Voluntary Education Program, or VEP. The CDCR reports:

    "At a recent focus group with the first cohort of inmates to use the eReaders for college courses, many of them agreed that the eReader has not only encouraged them to continue to take courses but it has also piqued the interest of other inmates who are unable to afford college textbooks."

    Using a Tablet for the First Time

    "A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Education outlined a recommended plan for the rehabilitation of inmates prior to their release," Erin Smith says. The plan suggested using "advanced technologies."

    Folsom Books

    "Technology is a lot cheaper for cash-strapped state prison systems," Erin says. "It also helps these inmates with tech skills that could smooth their re-entry process once they leave prison."

    "Some of these inmates are using a tablet for the first time," she says.

    Classes While Incarcerated

    Pearson book titles are being used inside Folsom starting this month.


    "It's a project we could easily replicate to prison systems across the country," Erin says. "It's something Pearson should be doing because it's a reminder that learning can flourish in the most unsuspecting places."

    The CDCR says "in the case of current inmates attending college classes while incarcerated, it dramatically reduces the likelihood he/she will reoffend once back in society."

    'What Else Can We Do?'

    "So many people just didn't get the opportunities I had," Erin says. "My mom drove me to school, dad drove me to basketball practice—it was understood that I was going to college."

    "This Folsom project is a good reason to come to work today," Erin says. "Since we've done this, it makes me wonder: What else can we do?"

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees

    by LearnEd

    Kid walking along a Syrian street

    Pearson Syria 5

    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.


    Pearson Syria 3

  • 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.


    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.


    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.

    global workforce


    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.