Chapter 2 – Review of the Literature
In Connecticut, students who are low-performing on benchmark tests receive interventions through the Response to Intervention (RTI) system, also known as Scientifically Research Based Interventions (SRBI). The focus of SRBI for this study was in the area of mathematics. RTI is defined as the “practice of providing scientific, research‐based instruction and intervention matched to students’ needs, with important educational decisions based on students’ levels of performance and learning rates over time” (Connecticut State Department of Education, (Using scientific research-based interventions), 2009, p. 3). RTI and SRBI do not aim to “compensate for ineffective classroom instruction” but rather to provide “early intervention and assistance before falling too far behind their peers.” Schools must recognize how well students “respond to supplemental support and interventions and collect…data regularly …to make thoughtful decisions about how to refine this support” (Fisher, & Frey, 2010, p. 27, 16).
As described by Poncy, McCallum, and Schmitt (2010) students who are low-achieving in mathematics tend to struggle with fluency in their math facts. This decreases their ability to master more advanced math content. Students with lower levels of achievement in math also tend to experience frustration and higher “levels of math-related anxiety.” Students who have not mastered their facts are less willing to attempt math tasks and “avoid assigned math tasks because the tasks are perceived as too difficult to complete successfully” (p. 917). Similarly, students in Tier III mathematics interventions tend to use avoidance techniques when they feel uncomfortable completing the math at hand because they do not have the requisite background knowledge and do not feel they are able to solve the problem. These techniques include asking to be excused, telling a ‘story’, acting defeated, or rushing through to complete the problem without checking work; all in an attempt to avoid mathematics they find too challenging and overwhelming.
In 2010, Donker published research on the use of print instruction versus video instruction as a means to teach distance learners lessons on mortar and wall finish. In Ghana, the president had started a President’s Special Initiative on Distance Learning to address the alternate educational needs of Ghanaians. Donker’s study focused on the use of videos to gain practical and visual skills in poverty stricken area where other resources might not be available to the learner. Although Donker focused on the use of video technology and instructional videos in the technical and vocational in Ghana, rather than academic fields in the US; the essential component to this study was the effectiveness of using instructional videos in alternate learning situations. Additionally, Donker’s research also sought to answer similar questions as this study: “How do learners using video-based practical lessons and those using print-based practical lessons compare in practical skills acquisition?” and “How do learners using video-based practical lessons and those using print-based practical lessons compare in theoretical knowledge?” similar to the questions asked in this study (p. 100). Also similar were the means of calculating results, by comparing pre-test to post-test scores. The end results were that “the two instructional materials were pedagogically equivalent in terms of theoretical knowledge acquired” and “practical skills acquired…were significantly higher among users of video-based instructional materials, [and]… users of video-based instructional materials displayed significantly superior craftsmanship” (Donker, 2010, p. 96). This supports the idea that instructional videos may have a positive effect on student learning and retention.
Khan Academy Coach is an internet based resource that allows teachers to create separate student accounts under their teacher accounts. Topics (and videos) are chosen based on student needs diagnosed by benchmark tests. For example, a sixth grade student whose data showed non-mastery of Standard CC 6.NS.4: “Find the greatest common factor of two whole numbers less than or equal to 100 and the least common multiple of two whole numbers less than or equal to 12. Use the distributive property to express a sum of two whole numbers 1–100 with a common factor as a multiple of a sum of two whole numbers with no common factor. For example, express 36 + 8 as 4 (9 + 2)” (Common Core State Standard Initiative, 2010, p. 42) would watch a video on finding the least common multiple or greatest common factor, and then complete practice problems. During the practice problems students had the option of receiving a hint or re-watching the video. Students were expected to accurately answer five questions in a row to have mastered the topic (referred to as “Five in a Row” from here on). Like the flipped classrooms studied by Fulton (2012), the use of Khan Academy Coach allowed “students [to] move at their own pace” as students have the option of watching and re-watching videos, receiving hints, and the practice questions are untimed. Additionally the program provided “instantaneous feedback” for the teacher by tracking the student progress virtually from a teacher account on Khan Academy as the students work (Fulton, 2012, p.21-22). The teacher account allowed teachers to monitor the minutiae of student progress: how much time a student has spent answering each question, re-watching videos, and how many questions they completed before they answered Five in a Row correctly, providing formal formative feedback to the teacher to shape instruction.
Past pilots of Khan Academy Coach have occurred in urban Summit San Jose in California’s Bay Area a “a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse charter [high] school”; at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, California which is a “a tuition-free independent [middle] school for students who would be the first in their families to attend college”; at Egan Middle School in the Los Altos, California, School District, and at Mongolian orphanages (Khan & Slavitt, 2013, p.28-30). However research was lacking on the success of this program in a suburban school where 88.4 percent of students are white and only 13.3 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch (Connecticut Education Data and Research, 2011-2012, p.1, 4 ).
Research by Taylor and Galligan (2002) looked at the impact of instructional videos on students studying mathematics at the college level. Instructional videos were used, in part, to build foundational mathematics skills. An interesting concept from this study was the use of questioning before, during and after the videos were watched to gauge the effectiveness and appropriateness of the videos. For example, before the video questions asked included, “What were your past experiences?”, during the video, “What parts you liked best?” and “What parts you didn’t like?”, and after the video, “Could you do the calculations?” and “Was there any part of the production you liked or disliked?” (Taylor & Galligan, 2002, p. 26).