Since 2003, math scores across Ontario have been steadily declining. Regularly in provincial, national and international assessments, students across multiple grade levels have been performing poorly. This is a trend that has not gone unnoticed. Every school district across the province is working hard to improve their students’ outcomes in mathematics.
One way that school boards try to improve is by asking teachers to regularly check for understanding by students of what is being taught. Since learning is not a guaranteed outcome of being taught, a teacher who is constantly checking for understanding and who adapts their teaching accordingly is better able to help their students improve achievement. There is well-respected research that this process can lead to improved outcomes.
For teachers to properly execute this strategy they need to take time to design regular assessments, administer those assessments, mark them, analyze the results, identify any gaps and misconceptions, and, after that exhausting process, adjust their instruction to address any issues uncovered. Teachers must then multiply this process hundreds of times throughout the year. It can be exhausting.
Knowledgehook, an award-winning education technology company based in Kitchener-Waterloo, envisioned a better approach. As teachers assign fun, engaging work to their students, Knowledgehook organizes students’ performance data into an actionable format for use by teachers and administrators. The data is analyzed in real-time to identify gaps and misconceptions in student understanding and alert a teacher as to what may be holding a student back in their math learning.
Through a partnership with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), the fifth-largest school district in Ontario, Knowledgehook is demonstrating the impact and value of its tools for teachers, students, principals and administrators. As teachers and students use Knowledgehook in their regular classroom work, student performance data is providing actionable insights that can inform next steps in instruction. Teachers get alerts about where to focus their learning while principals and administrators receive anonymous, district-level data on where they can make better investments in professional development for teachers. Knowledgehook’s innovative Instructional Guidance System (IGS) provides dashboards and supports for localized professional learning in ways which can be scaled across the school and the school systems.
“The work we are undertaking with TVDSB is important on both the academic and business sides,” says Lionel Loganathan, Director, Academic Partnerships, Knowledgehook.
“Academically, school districts have been able to scale a number of best-practices in math education, including more efficient delivery of curriculum-aligned assessments and actionable insights that help teachers improve classroom instruction.”
“On the business side, this project has allowed Knowledgehook to demonstrate to other school districts (both in Ontario and in other regions) how an Ontario-based innovation can help them improve outcomes in mathematics,” Loganathan continues.
Knowledgehook’s award winning technology is currently used by over 14,000 teachers across North America including by 55 of the 72 publicly funded school boards in Ontario.
After working with Knowledgehook for three years, TVDSB agreed to partner with the company in demonstrating the tools success. “While we know kids love Knowledgehook, our Board has had opportunities to help provide more direct support and professional learning to teachers that is directly tied to their students’ needs in the classroom,” says Tricia Loney, Learning Coordinator, TVDSB. “Teachers are the most important resource in any classroom and it’s exciting to work with a technology company that designs and builds products that are meant to help teachers achieve instructional excellence.”
Supporting Innovative Thinking in Ontario
As a large school district in a major regional hub in Ontario, TVDSB routinely seeks out opportunities to implement innovative technologies that support their Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement (BIPSA).
“It’s important for us to demonstrate our leadership as a Board and be open to trying new ideas that can help us achieve our objectives for improved student achievement in mathematics,” Loney says.
“It’s especially great for us to work with a company like Knowledgehook that understands our local context, understands the Ontario curriculum expectations, and has built tools that have those expectations embedded within it, so teachers don’t have to worry about weeding out questions that are not applicable.”
This initiative is funded under the AdvancingEducation Program, delivered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) on behalf of the Ontario government. The program helps connect Ontario’s public education system with companies to test early-market interest and demonstrate innovative products and technologies in an education setting. The program invests in collaborative innovation procurement projects to demonstrate new technologies in a public sector setting as a means of building a strong case for adoption and system-wide scaling.
AdvancingEducation is funded by OntarioBuys, which helps drive collaboration and improve supply chain processes in Ontario’s broader public service by investing in innovation and facilitating and accelerating the adoption of integrated supply chain, back-office leading practices and operational excellence.
The Knowledgehook-TVDSB partnership has already led to the adoption of Knowledgehook at eight other school districts so that the original funding support of $250,000 provided by OCE has led to an overall economic impact of $1.2M.