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Working Papers

Language and Mathematics Learning: A Comparative Study of Digital Learning Platforms

Pub. March 2024

By: Xin Wei, Amanda Wortman, Li Cheng, Neil Heffernan, Cristina Heffernan, April Murphy, Cristina Zepeda, Ben Motz, Harmony Jankowski, Jeremy Roschelle

This paper presents a conceptual exploration of how Digital Learning Platforms (DLPs) can be utilized to investigate the impact of language clarity, precision, engagement, and contextual relevance on mathematics learning from word problems. Focusing on three distinct DLPs—ASSISTments/E-TRIALS, MATHia/UpGrade, and Canvas/Terracotta—we propose hypothetical studies aimed at uncovering how nuanced language modifications can enhance mathematical understanding and engagement. While these studies are illustrative in nature, they provide a blueprint for researchers interested in leveraging DLPs for empirical investigation so that future investigators gain a better understanding of the emerging infrastructure for research in digital learning platforms and the opportunities provided by them. In highlighting three distinct implementations of the same core research question, we reveal both commonalities as well as differences in how different educational technologies might build evidence, offering a unique opportunity to advance the field of math education and other education research fields.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Pub. January 2024

By Jeremy Roschelle and Adam Schellinger

SEERNet digital learning platforms (DLPs) are developing new infrastructure to support research in authentic contexts where student learning is happening. In order to contextualize this work within the larger field, we trace historical precedents along four main categories: data repositories, data collection services, research design interfaces, and research communities. By situating this innovative movement alongside its predecessors, we can identify the opportunities for SEERNet and others to progress and sustain the mission of making research more scalable, equitable, and rigorous.

Practitioners at the Center, Part II: Reflections on Practitioners’ Engagement with the SEERNet Hub

Pub. October 2023

By Stefani Pautz Stephenson and Deblina Pakhira

SEERNet, a network of Digital Learning Platforms, researchers, and practitioners with the vision to leverage DLPs as research infrastructure, is committed to valuing practitioners’ insights and fostering a culture of collaboration among all three parties. Towards this end, SEERNet has implemented two strategies: Office Hours and a practitioner advisory board. Through these strategies, valuable lessons have emerged about recruitment strategies, challenges and complexities of the classroom, educators as content and context experts, the difference between buy-in and ownership, considerations for experimental research, and more. We hope that researchers will take into consideration what we learned from our experiences as they design and implement their own studies, and regardless of whether or not the DLP requires researchers to directly engage with educators in data collection, we hope that researchers will see the value of practitioners’ lived experiences and engage them in feedback loops from design to implementation to dissemination.

Making Waves: Reflections on SEERNet’s Progress Towards Enabling Next Generation of Education Research

Pub. September 2023

By Stefani Pautz Stephenson, Jeremy Roschelle

Abstract: SEERNet is a network of Digital Learning Platforms, researchers, and practitioners with the vision to leverage DLPs as research infrastructure, enabling researchers to ask and answer important questions about learning in ways that are grounded in realistic, widespread use of learning technologies. A first wave of work established the foundation for the research community. The network looks now towards a second wave of work that clarifies research opportunities and builds capacity for the types of research that can be supported. A third wave seeks to expand the network’s efforts towards broader aspirations for better science, engineering, practitioner engagement, and community.

Practitioners at the Center: Catalyzing Research on Problems of Practice in Realistic Settings

Pub. December 2022

By Stefani Pautz Stephenson, Rebecca Banks, Deblina Pakhira
Abstract: SEERNet’s goal is to enable alignment of research on digital learning platforms to the Institute of Education Sciences’ Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER) and thereby make research more rigorous, transparent, actionable, inclusive, and focused on consequential impacts. While researchers have long aspired to study problems of value to the field, the conception of research questions rarely is in partnership with practitioners. Without voices from the field, researchers do not have the deep understanding of educator, student, and system needs that are essential for ensuring research will impact decision-making. This paper will discuss a national call for involving practitioners in research question design, strategies for partnerships with practitioners, and SEERNet’s guiding principles for practitioner engagement. It will also introduce how needs and research question ideas were developed through SEERNet’s Office Hours.

Designing for the future of research: Putting equity-relevant research into practice with scenarios and personas

Pub. October 2022

By Deblina Pakhira and Judi Fusco

Abstract: SEERNet, a hub of five digital learning platforms (DLPs), either in K-12 or higher education, are enabling researchers with capabilities to conduct research and collect data on large numbers of students. Based on the new Standard for Excellence in Education Research (SEER Standards) around Equity, we propose that researchers should consider future-oriented approaches and methodologies to conduct equity-relevant research using DLPs. Taking a future-oriented approach, we created scenarios and personas to help us envision an equitable and inclusive future. Scenarios and personas are tools that may help center equity in research. We make three additional recommendations to bring new perspectives into future-oriented, equity-relevant research practices. First, include diverse research perspectives. Second, engage teachers, students, and families as partners in research. Third, minimize bias. In SEERNet, we invite the research community to join in future conversations as we continue to consider personas and future-oriented scenarios and see what they can help us understand and do. 

Conducting Research on the Digital Learning Platforms

Pub. April 2022

Compiled by Adam Schellinger

SEERNet includes 5 digital learning platforms (DLPs) that connect researchers to millions of teachers and learners across US K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions. Each DLP has their own unique users and capabilities for conducting research – this guide is a central resource for researchers looking to understand what each platform offers.

Navigating the Tensions: How Could Equity-relevant Research Also Be Agile, Open, and Scalable?

Pub. August 2022

By Jenna Zacamy and Jeremy Roschelle

Abstract: Digital learning platforms are beginning to become open to research. Specifically, in our work in SEERNet, developers are extending five platforms, each used in either K-12 or higher education by more than 100,000 users, to enable third-party researchers to explore, develop, and test improvements. SEERNet seeks to enable equity-relevant research aligned with the IES Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER) principles. It also seeks to support research that is more agile (or rapid), is more open, and scales from research to impacts on practice. We review the emerging tensions among the goal of equity-relevant research and desires for agile, open, and scalable research. We argue that designing and developing technical capabilities for agile, open, and scalable research will not be enough. Based on a series of interviews we conducted with experts in social sciences and equity-focused research, we argue that researchers will have to rethink how they plan and undertake their research. Five shifts could help. First, researchers could deliberately reframe their designs away from a comprehensive, monolithic study to smaller, agile cycles that test a smaller conjecture each time. Second, researchers could shift from designing new educational resources to determining how well-used resources could be elaborated and refined to address equity issues. Third, researchers could utilize variables that capture student experiences to investigate equity when they cannot obtain student demographic variables. Fourth, researchers could work in partnership with educators on equity problems that educators prioritize and want help in solving. Fifth, researchers could acknowledge that achieving equity is not only a technological or resource-design problem, but requires working at the classroom and systems levels too. In SEERNet, we look forward to working with the research community to find ways to address equity through research using well-used digital learning platforms, and to simultaneously conduct research that is more agile, more open, and more directly applicable at scale.