The Walkington Project

The E-TRIALS Testbed: iTest for STEM careers

Much like shared scientific instruments such as The Hubble Space Telescope, the E-TRIALS Testbed was made to help researchers run experiments. Our infrastructure has allowed Dr. Candace Walkington of Southern Methodist University to carry out iTest for STEM Careers, funded by the NSF. The E-TRIALS Testbed runs on ASSISTments, one of the most proven educational interventions. Online learning platforms record millions of data points and capture students’ learning in a way that is incomparable to earlier educational contexts. By broadening our collective view of the potential of these technologies to advance our understanding of what works in education, transforming these types of environments into shared scientific instruments will translate to systemic changes in policy and practice. E-TRIALS, an EdTech Research Instrument to Advance Learning Science, seeks to do just that.

itest for stem careers

This Strategies project explores iTEST guiding questions regarding (1) experiences for enhancing motivation and preparedness for STEM careers, and (2) curricular materials to enhance understanding of and interest in STEM occupations. We propose to build an environment where students enrolled in algebra courses learn key principles in the context of their STEM career interests by posing and solving algebra story problems relating to STEM career paths.

By connecting algebraic concepts with career paths, students will be able to answer the question: When will I ever use this?

Rather than building a novel software environment, we propose to leverage the ASSISTments platform, a free online mathematics homework tool that is widely-used by teachers. By modifying this platform to include tools and scaffolds for student problem-posing, our environment will be widely available to a range of teachers. Our research plan details a series of studies we will conduct on our environment. In a pilot study, we explore students? STEM career interests using surveys and interviews.

This project will create and disseminate a bank of hundreds of algebra problem-solving and -posing tasks personalized to STEM career interests. These problems will be freely available via ASSISTments and many will be complete with hints, narrated videos of real student solutions, and scaffolds like interviews with STEM experts. Problems will be tagged with Common Core Standards and will be paired with videos of high school and college teachers facilitating their use in math classrooms. Another broader impact will be allowing the ASSISTments environment to be adapted to support learner problem-posing. Opening up an already-successful mathematics educational software to allow for greater student ownership and critical thinking may pave the way to a more flexible and adaptive use of online mathematics tutoring systems to move developers away from a focus on basic skill practice.

Below is a video from Prof Walkington showing her use of ASSISTments to run her 4 conditions.