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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Columbus Signature Academy - New Tech High School, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation
Columbus, IN

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: One-to-One Laptop Program
Purpose: Improve State Test Scores, Supplement
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 20%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1-2 hours per week
ALEKS Course: Algebra 1

Jenna Kukreja, Teacher
This past summer, the three members of my school's math department were looking for a supplementary math program for our students because we teach all of our courses using the project-based learning model. We thought that having a math program available to the students would help our End of Course Assessment (ECA) scores. We selected ALEKS because of the type of problems that were asked and the visual component of the program used to measure student progress. The students are excited about the program and enjoy seeing the improvements in their ALEKS Pies. As a teacher, I can tell that ALEKS is helping my students to master various Algebra 1 topics - even ones that I had not yet covered. This allows me to create rich, project-based learning units without fear that I will not have time to address some of the smaller standards that are sure to be present on the ECA. I have created a benchmark and rewards system with my students for mastering a specific number of topics which creates an exciting environment on "ALEKS Fridays." The use of this program and its many features has contributed to significant improvement in our ECA scores. Hopefully the improvement will allow us to get enough subscriptions for our entire student body!


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
I had difficulty teaching all standards in a project-based learning environment, and with ECA scores.

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

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


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
We use ALEKS once each week to supplement project-based learning instruction. On ALEKS Fridays, the student work towards meeting their ALEKS benchmarks that I set up. Additionally, students come after school, during lunch, and during study hall if they want to work with me on ALEKS.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No. The students cover whatever topics they want as they are unlocked. Sometimes I will direct them to specific topics if I know that they have just learned about them in class, but otherwise, they just choose topics that look easy.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
I provide the students with pencils and paper, they plug in their mp3 players, and work for 65 minutes on the program. They often call me over when they have completed a topic and ask me to help them select their next piece.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I am able to reference problems that I know that all of the students have seen in ALEKS. I am also able to use the quiz feature to assess my students on skills that we have been learning in class as well as in ALEKS. I also use the quiz feature to set up an ECA review quiz in preparation for their exam.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Because not all students have Internet access at home, they are never required. However, they are always encouraged to work on ALEKS at home. They are often given a week to take a particular quiz which makes some of them take it at home, but others will work on it during school hours.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I do not try to cultivate parent involvement; however, I make parents aware of our benchmarks and have received many comments from parents about how excited their student is about the implementation of the program.


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?
The ALEKS benchmarks that I created are used as homework assignments and a means for participation points.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS accounts for about 10-20% of a student's grade. I do one grade based on completion of a benchmark and another grade for participation every "ALEKS Friday."

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes, I set up the following benchmarks (modified for students with Individualized Education Plans if needed): Benchmark 1 - 88/288 topics; Benchmark 2 - 160/288 topics; Benchmark 3 - 200/288 topics.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Since incorporating ALEKS, students have shown the most improvement in data analysis and in the areas of probability, geometry, and exponents and radicals. Each of those strands are available on their ALEKS Pie for Algebra 1, but have not been a major focus of my lesson planning. However, on the ECA practice exams, students have tested very strongly on those strands even though we have not completed a project associated with those topics. To me, it is evident that they learned it through the ALEKS program. Because of a benchmark and reward system that I put in place, the students are VERY motivated to progress through the program. The students only have one day in class set aside for ALEKS, but they are still meeting their benchmarks. They will talk to me about their ALEKS questions, stay after school, and give up their study halls and lunch periods. I am very pleased with their motivation and progress!


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I recommend setting up a benchmark system where students are rewarded for their progress. Even the smallest rewards create a culture of excitement and motivation. In addition, grade on participation as well as correctness. The cumulative assessments take some students down a few topics even though they try very hard. Give them points instead for time logged and topics completed. Finally, create a culture of excitement. If you are excited about ALEKS and can get a few students excited about it, the excitement will spread! I have had a number of students not in my class who have asked me how they can get ALEKS for their classes.