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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Watershed School, Private
Thomaston, ME

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, Laptop Carts
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 90%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 4 hours per week, 50 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, Foundations of High School Math, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Trigonometry

Mary Smyth, Teacher
Very good!


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
We are a small, independent high school. We have to serve a single group in one class, but they have widely different abilities.

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

What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
60-75 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
We chose ALEKS at the inception of the school.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
By teacher guidance only, I urge them to do integer concepts first.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Our classes consist of five minutes of "question of the day" time and mental math drills, then individual work time for the rest of the hour.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
This is my regular teaching approach. I come from the background of being a one-on-one tutor.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
It's up to them, but we do have minimum hours required per quarter and semester. If they miss class time, they have to make it up somehow.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I drown them in data. I can tell a parent exactly where a student is in the entire high school math curriculum. Most are just amazed that I can parse it that accurately. Also, if a student is lagging I can show them the numbers compared to where the student is expected to be. 


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 required homework on ALEKS, except to make up minimum required hours online.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
We don't have grades in our school. Transcripts include narrative summaries of progress.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Each case is considered individually. We generally expect completion of one course per year (Algebra 1, Algebra 2), but we sometimes combine courses (Pre-Algebra for part of the year, then Algebra 1, for instance).


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
No final word on this yet. It took a bit of a teacher learning curve to understand how to use ALEKS. Most of the students find the explanations lacking sometimes, as it is not like hearing it from a real human. Also, it is important to be what I call "in the zone" (i.e., the student should not be in the course if the initial assessment is not above 25 percent). It is better for the student to go back to an earlier course with a simpler pie and get to see their success. I have my own unique approach.  I think ALEKS is getting the best results we have ever seen. Some of our students get hyper-focused on getting items checked off, and they all mention how nice it is to move at their own speeds.   


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Make sure you are doing concept checks, where you are asking the students if they understand what they are learning. One problem we have had is the very concrete student, who takes extensive notes and learns the patterns of the questions, but in reality has no idea why she is doing what she is doing.