ASSISTments Efficacy Study Highlighted in new JREE Publication

June 4, 2020

The ASSISTments team is proud to share that an analysis of a study conducted by SRI International on the efficacy of ASSISTments was recently published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness (JREE), building upon a previous article published in AERA Open. The efficacy study was funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) and conducted in Maine from 2012-2015. In both analyses, the ASSISTments platform was found to be effective in boosting student learning, particularly for students with lower prior mathematics achievement. 

Efficacy studies have the power to put educational technology like ASSISTments to the test under strict research conditions. They help us to understand the true impact of our tool in classrooms and inform guidance on how teachers can most effectively implement the tool in classrooms. On the new publication, Neil Heffernan, WPI Professor and ASSISTments founder says, “It is important that research be more easily accessible to educators. This new publication offers insights and recommendations for applying the study’s insights into math classrooms.”

Several crucial findings about ASSISTments’s impact on student learning were found in the research. First, teachers using ASSISTments targeted class time to address student difficulties and errors more than their peers who did not use ASSISTments. Second, the group of students whose teacher made assignments using ASSISTments had higher end-of-year math achievement. And perhaps most notably, the greatest learning improvements were found for students with low prior achievement. 

“Studies have shown that many EdTech math products may actually exacerbate achievement gaps rather than close them,” says Heffernan. “I am pleased that SRI found that ASSISTments shrank achievement gaps for students below the median in middle school math.” Furthermore, we remain proud to offer ASSISTments completely free of charge, supporting accessibility and educational equity for all students. 

According to the study, three factors that influence the efficacy of ASSISTments on student learning are the implementation of one-to-one technology, mathematics homework practices, and formative assessment. The researchers suggested that when implementing math interventions, educators have the most to gain if they “continue to explore all three factors.” The publication also studies the impact of factors such as teaching style and schoolwide practices on student learning and presents insights on how the effects of ASSISTments can help different student populations including high and low performing students.  

The ASSISTments team continues to study the efficacy of the tool on student learning. Several new projects are being conducted to study the effects of ASSISTments in diverse learning environments, including studies in North Carolina and nationwide. With diverse geographic and socioeconomic regions represented in these two studies, we hope to find results that can be generalizable to a larger population of students in the US. 

Heffernan states, “I am pleased to study ASSISTments’s efficacy in more racially and socioeconomically diverse regions in order to determine if the tool can be effective in shrinking racial achievement gaps.” 

Research continues to be a pillar of our work at ASSISTments. As a part of a 5-year 2019 Education, Innovation and Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education to scale and expand ASSISTments, randomized controlled trials will be used to test the effectiveness of ASSISTments, particularly in rural schools. We are committed to establishing ASSISTments’ efficacy across diverse learning environments. The insights found in research studies help guide the development of the ASSISTments tool, inspiring new features to support student learning. By studying ASSISTments’s efficacy, we continue the work of providing a free tool to schools that can positively impact student outcomes through innovative technologies grounded in learning science.

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