ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

Implementation Strategies

View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes. 

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Connersville High School, Fayette County School District
Connersville, IN

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab
Purpose: Intervention, At-Risk Students, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 80%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3.3 hours per week, 297 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Algebra 1

Daniel Haffner, Math Instructor
I have been pleasantly surprised with how easy ALEKS is to utilize in my classroom. I teach remedial Algebra I classes where students are expected to pass an End-of-Course (EOC) Assessment for the state to graduate. Many of the students lack a set of skills, though not necessarily the same skills. ALEKS allows each of the students to move through the material they need to know and also revisit material that was not mastered in their earlier school experience. I set a number of objectives for students to reach each week in order to determine a class participation grade and students meet or exceed my expectations for each week. I believe ALEKS plays a big part in my students' motivation because they can work at their own pace. The program can be used independently by the student, where they can become active learners rather than passive learners in my classroom. Of our repeating Algebra students, 49 percent passed the EOC Assessment in the winter, an increase of 36 percent from the same time last year.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
We had a high number of students who did not pass the state EOC Assessments prior to ALEKS. Some students might have had to repeat the class two or three times before passing the state assessment. Classroom behavior and truancy were also problems we faced in the classroom.

How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
5 days per week.

What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
40 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
Our school purchased ALEKS for use in our Algebra classes as an intervention strategy. All of us who teach remedial Algebra have structured our classes around ALEKS and the program has become the base of our instruction. We come up with our own warm-up and closing activities, but the base instruction is the same: the students get around 40 minutes per day on ALEKS.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No, we let students work at their own pace. We do talk with students about working with particular topics, especially ones they may be hesitant to try independently.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
We begin the class period with a daily review question, and reminders of expectations and goals for the class, then students begin working on ALEKS. We end the period with some kind of cumulative activity such as an "Exit Card," filling out a KWL (Knows/Wants to Know/Learned) chart, a writing across the curriculum activity, etc.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
We went from being a teacher/lecture-based classroom to a student-centered model. Students now work mainly on the ALEKS program and very little lecture takes place in the classroom. Instead of lectures, we do small group work if we see a particularly high number of students struggling with certain objectives. This allows remediation to happen in a timely manner that best benefits the students. Whole class instruction takes place only if certain objectives are needed to be addressed for everyone.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are encouraged to work at home, but are not required. Many of our students do not have Internet access at home. However, I have numerous examples of students who have put in over two hours on a Saturday. This is something I never saw with "textbook homework."

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We encourage parents to check in with their students when using ALEKS at home. In addition, we provide printouts and reports at parents' request.


Grading

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities? If so, what part of the total homework load is it?
No, since more than 50 percent of our students do not have Internet access at home.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS is the basis of our grading for our remedial Algebra classes. We look at assessment scores and require that students improve by 2 percent on each assessment.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
With ALEKS, students are more motivated to learn because they are in control of the program. They can no longer just sit back and listen to lectures, perform practice problems, and repeat the same exercises day after day. Rather, students have taken control of their learning and work to complete a set number of objectives each week. Students who previously did not participate in class can now be seen actively solving problems in ALEKS. I have logged on to see student scores and have numerous examples of students working on ALEKS outside of class time. I was astonished to see that students were putting in extra work outside the classroom (something that never happened prior to ALEKS). I know we have progress because I see those "light bulb" moments where something finally clicks for students and they "just get it." Additionally, 49 percent of our repeating Algebra students passed the EOC Assessments this winter; our normal pass rate was 13-14 percent.


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I have found that the small group instructional activities, where I pull a specific group of 3-4 students aside and work on skill sets, seems to benefit my students the most. This way, students still get "face time" with an instructor while also being allowed to remain independent in other areas of the classroom.