Category Archives: Press Releases

Discovery Education’s Spotlight on Strategies Content Now Aligned to McREL International’s Six-Phase Model for Learning

May 29, 2018

*The following is a press release from Discovery Education, regarding a partnership project with McREL.

Silver Spring, Md. (May 29, 2018)Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, today announced it has aligned its popular Spotlight on Strategies content to McREL International’s six-phase model for learning.  The alignment of this popular series of digital professional learning resources to McREL’s model helps educators quickly chose the appropriate classroom tactics for aiding the acquisition and recall of information. McREL International is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.

Available in all Discovery Education Techbooks and Streaming services, the Spotlight on Strategies or SOS series offers creative, research-based instructional videos and supporting materials developed for teachers, by teachers. An example of an SOS can be found in a short video about the A-E-I-O-U strategy, through which students interpret information from images or videos they have viewed, write down their thoughts next to five descriptive categories, then pair-share their favorite parts.  This strategy provides scaffolding that helps students look for and remember key ideas about the information presented in the video segment and provides a conversation structure for debriefing with classmates and reporting out.

Another SOS example is the Table Top Texting strategy, which engages students in content by encouraging them to reflect and respond to videos or images they are presented by creating a written dialogue with their neighbor in the form of a “text thread.”  In this way, students connect to digital content in a way they communicate on a daily basis as they are encouraged to think and respond on a higher level.

McREL’s six-phase model was recently outlined in a McREL whitepaper entitled Student Learning that Works, and consists of:

  1. Become interested in learning,
  2. Committing to learning,
  3. Engaging in learning,
  4. Making sense of learning,
  5. Practicing new learning, and
  6. Applying learning and finding meaning.

Thanks to Discovery Education’s alignment of the over 130 SOS videos and their accompanying support materials to these six phases, educators can now quickly and easily find SOS strategies that support students’ needs no matter where they are on McREL’s model for learning.

“The SOS videos are one of the most useful professional learning resources available to teachers today,” said Susan Bowdoin, a Library Media Specialist in New Mexico’s Albuquerque Public Schools.  “The alignment of the SOS resources to McREL’s six-phase learning model is an incredibly valuable timesaver, as it allows me quickly cross-reference what phase of learning students are in and then choose a strategy that will help them progress to the next level.”

The SOS initiative grew out of the Discovery Education Community. A global community of education professionals, the Discovery Education Community connects members in school systems and around the world through social media, virtual conferences, and in-person events, fostering valuable networking, idea sharing and inspiration.

“Just as McREL is dedicated to helping educators flourish by turning research into solutions, Discovery Education seeks to empower educators worldwide with the content and professional learning they need to accelerate student achievement,” said Jannita Demian, Senior Director, Learning Communities and Instructional Content. “By aligning McREL’s research on learning to Discovery Education’s content, we’ve created an innovative tool educators can use to support the success of all their students.”

For more information about Discovery Education’s services and the Spotlight on Strategies videos, visit www.discoveryeducation.com, and stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @DiscoveryEd, or find us on Instagram and Pinterest.

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About Discovery Education
As the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12 classrooms worldwide, Discovery Education is transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional learning, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are available in approximately half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the UK, and more than 50 countries around the globe. Inspired by the global media company Discovery Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement. Explore the future of education at DiscoveryEducation.com.

New Book in Award-Winning Series for Teachers Provides 50+ Tools for Great Classroom Instruction and Student Learning

January 16, 2018

Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, co-published today by McREL International and Thoughtful Education Press, contains more than 50 classroom-ready teaching tools aligned with McREL’s extensive research and analysis of the most effective K–12 instructional strategies.

The new book provides a repertoire of practical techniques teachers can use year-round to support high levels of student learning. The book builds on McREL’s groundbreaking Classroom Instruction That Works research base and best-selling publications, which revealed nine categories of instructional strategies that have the strongest impacts on student achievement.

“McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works is the gold standard of education research,” said Dr. Harvey Silver, co-author of the new book and co-founder of Thoughtful Education Press, a division of Silver Strong & Associates. “With this new book of tools developed in partnership with McREL, we’re now providing the ‘how’ for putting the power of this research to work in our classrooms.”

Thoughtful Education Press produces the award-winning Tools for Today’s Educators™ book series, including the best-sellers Tools for a Successful School Year and Tools for Thoughtful Assessment. Each Tools book provides educators with a set of classroom-ready tools along with tips for successful implementation.

“For many years, Harvey Silver and his team have developed an amazing set of tools that teachers can take and apply right away in their classrooms to accelerate learning,” said Bryan Goodwin, CEO of McREL International. “By linking our research to these tools, we’re building on 50-plus years of tradition at McREL, translating research into practical solutions for educators that help students flourish”

Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works can be purchased at https://store.mcrel.org and http://toolsfortodayseducators.com.

What education professionals are saying about Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works:

“Harvey Silver and colleagues have made a great framework even better.”
–Robert J. Marzano, co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, Marzano Research

“This book is packed with powerful, easy-to-use tools. Anyone who wants to improve teaching—teacher, coach, administrator, anyone—will find it incredibly useful.”
–Jim Knight, author of The Impact Cycle and Better Conversations 

“This book is an ideal resource for meeting the growing call for ‘best first instruction.’ It is strongly aligned to the Classroom Instruction That Works research base, and it provides high-impact tools that help educators turn the research into powerful classroom practice.”
–Bj Stone, co-author, Classroom Instruction That Works (Second Edition)

“As a principal of an elementary school I am constantly looking for resources for my teachers. So often the resources I find are filled with ‘what’ teachers should be doing with little support on the ‘how.’ This book was designed for busy teachers that need a ‘how’ they can use the next day. It provides great tools backed by solid research that will benefit new and veteran educators alike. I can’t wait to get this resource in the hands of my teachers!”
–Kellie Roe, Principal, Clear Sky Elementary, Colorado

“This book of practical tools meets teachers at the crossroads of easy, effective, and exhilarating. Thoughtful Classroom tools are always one of my go-to’s for planning professional learning. All educators will benefit from incorporating these tried-and-true tools into their repertoires.”
–Nicholas DiSanto, Instructional Lead, Affinity Field Support Center, New York

About McREL International

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that turns knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance for educators across the U.S. and around the world. Schools and school systems turn to McREL for high-quality research and evaluation, professional development and coaching, and strategic planning and implementation support for improvement and innovation projects.

About Thoughtful Education Press

Thoughtful Education Press is the publishing division of Silver Strong & Associates, an educational consulting and publishing company that provides custom professional development and practical resources to schools and districts throughout the country. Through its own channels and strategic partnerships with leading national publishers, Thoughtful Education Press produces a range of resources for educators on a variety of topics—including award-winning books, professional learning guides, customized workshop designs, and online assessments.

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McREL study finds link between school climate and literacy achievement

October 3, 2016

A study taking a closer look at the relationship between staff survey results and student performance at elementary schools across the state of Victoria, Australia, found a statistically significant link between school climate and achievement in literacy at the 5th grade level.

The predictive validity study, conducted by McREL researcher Tedra Clark and Roger Goddard of Ohio State University, focused on the effects on student achievement of five vital areas of school functioning: school climate; school leadership; professional learning; staff safety and well-being; and teaching and learning.

Teachers at 82 elementary and secondary schools across Victoria were asked about these five areas on a school staff opinion survey that McREL developed for the state’s Department of Education and Training. Further investigation showed that, though all five areas were highly interrelated and positively connected to student outcomes in literacy and numeracy, the most significant finding was that staff perceptions of school climate were predictive of 5th grade literacy achievement.

Using various statistical models, the researchers were able to “unpack” this relationship and found that the link occurs on a mediated path: Strong leadership at the school level led to better teacher collaboration and academic optimism, which led to literacy achievement. In other words, school leadership predicts student literacy scores through greater teacher collaboration and academic optimism.

This connection explained over 75 percent of the school-to-school variance in literacy achievement, said Clark. “This model is not only statistically strong,” she said, “but also holds up in different contexts and with different student populations.”

According to McREL Chief Program Officer Robin Jarvis, these findings also support the value of using multiple measures, such as climate surveys, not only to understand the factors affecting student achievement but also “to measure changes in those leading achievement indicators in order to intervene, when necessary, to ultimately improve student achievement.”

For more information on the school climate survey and results analysis, please visit www.mcrel.org/success-stories.

About McREL International

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that helps educators flourish by turning research into solutions that transform teaching, learning, and leading. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado and with regional offices in Honolulu, Hawaii and Charleston, West Virginia, McREL provides research, evaluation, consulting, and training services to school districts, education agencies, and higher education institutions across the U.S. and around the world. Learn more at www.mcrel.org.

Contact: Roger Fiedler, sr. director of communications and marketing, 303.632.5579 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

McREL forms strategic partnership with Discovery Education supporting the creation of dynamic digital learning environments

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Today, McREL International announced a new strategic partnership with Discovery Education supporting teacher leaders nationwide as they create dynamic digital learning environments. Through this new collaboration, McREL will support Discovery Education’s global efforts to grow the capacity of teacher leaders by developing innovation configuration (IC) maps for Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps.

Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps is a comprehensive professional development model that builds and nurtures a network of teacher leaders to design and implement successful and innovative teaching strategies that can be shared with their peers. Featuring a unique combination of professional learning, pedagogy and tools, the Digital Leader Corps helps participating educators learn to integrate educational technologies and digital media into classroom instruction and create dynamic learning environments that meet the needs of all students. Digital Leader Corps provides participants with continuous customized, job-embedded consultation throughout the process with on-going modeling, coaching and feedback from Discovery Education experts in the pre-planning, stakeholder communications, and implementation phases.

IC maps identify the major components of an innovation, capturing current practice and describing the steps for achieving implementation goals—placing these on a continuum, with weak or low-level implementation at one end and ideal or high-fidelity implementation at the other. The construction and use of an IC map communicates a common set of behaviors and expectations related to the implementation of a new initiative, such as the integration of technology with instruction, and provides a unique tool for teacher reflection, feedback, and assistance throughout the implementation process.

With McREL’s support, Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps participants are increasing their capacity to develop and use IC maps, which will help drive even deeper implementation of Digital Leader Corps and other improvement initiatives guiding the professional learning of digital leaders.

“By using IC maps within the Digital Leader Corps environment, participating teacher leaders will gain additional clarity on the key components of their roles and have a pathway of clearly described, increasingly sophisticated behaviors that can be supported and strengthened for greater impact and implementation success,” said Dr. Dale Lewis, a senior director at McREL who is leading the project with Discovery Education.

“Discovery Education is pleased to work with McREL to integrate innovation configuration maps into the powerful Digital Leader Corps model,” explained Dr. Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of learning and development. “The IC maps are another powerful tool supporting

the growth of the strong pedagogical practice needed to create the dynamic digital learning environments today’s students need for college and career readiness.”

For more information on McREL’s consulting, research, analysis, and evaluation services, visit www.mcrel.org.

For more information on the Digital Leader Corps, or other services and initiatives from Discovery Education, visit www.discoveryeducation.com.

About McREL International
McREL International is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that turns knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.

About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional development, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 3 million educators and over 30 million students, Discovery Education’s services are in half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the UK, and more than 50 countries. Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education at www.discoveryeducation.com.

Ribbon of Hope grant program launches online application system June 1

June 1, 2016

The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation invites community-based nonprofit organizations in North Carolina to use its new online grant application system to apply for Ribbon of Hope grants to support science, health, and education projects.

Starting June 1, the new online system can be found at http://www.ncgskfoundation.org/ribbon-grants.html. Applications for the next Ribbon of Hope grant funding cycle, which are due by October 1, 2016, can be submitted using the new online system or the existing paper application.

The Ribbon of Hope grant program offers $25,000 one-time awards to community-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations in North Carolina to expand or enhance existing programs or help start new initiatives. In addition to financial assistance, recipients benefit from customized consulting services and technical assistance provided by the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits.

The goal of the Ribbon of Hope program is to have a positive impact on the lives of North Carolina’s citizens in each of the state’s 100 counties. Proposed projects should be tightly aligned with the program’s mission to advance science, health, and education in local communities across the state. They should address critical community needs that have been identified through a comprehensive needs assessment, provide clear and concise descriptions of project activities, and demonstrate sustainability after grant funds are expended.

McREL International, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) research and development organization focused on improving education, provides support services for the Ribbon of Hope program.

The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation and McREL will host four informational webinars this summer about the Ribbon of Hope Program, providing potential applicants with information on grant eligibility, the application process, and reporting requirements. These webinars will be held on:

  • Thursday, July 14, 12:00 p.m. EDT
  • Tuesday, July 26, 11:00 a.m. EDT
  • Tuesday, August 16, 3:00 p.m. EDT
  • Thursday, September 1, 12:00 p.m. EDT To register for the webinars, please visit http://ow.ly/V3UA300kFuW.

For more information about the Ribbon of Hope program, including answers to frequently asked questions and a recording of a previous informational webinar, please visit http://www2.mcrel.org/NCGSKFRibbonOfHope/index.asp#.

McREL International celebrates 50 years of service to educators

April 27, 2016

DENVER — Fifty years ago this June, McREL International opened its doors as a federal educational research laboratory dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice. In the decades since, the organization has evolved and expanded its work and clients, but its core mission remains: To provide research and guidance that help educators and students succeed and flourish.

Incorporated in Kansas City, Missouri, McREL started off as Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory, one of 20 labs created and funded under the Cooperative Research Act and Title III of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to fulfill the need for high-quality research on effective education practices.

Over the years, McREL’s research and research-based products and services—such as Classroom Instruction That Works and Balanced Leadership—have made it a leader in instructional practice, leadership development, program and staff evaluation, standards-based education, and systemic improvement.

Today, McREL operates the Pacific Regional Educational Laboratory and the North Central Comprehensive Center, and works with schools, districts, colleges and universities, and state education agencies across the U.S. and around the world to improve the quality of leading, teaching, and learning.

Now, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Denver, Colo., with offices in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Charleston, W.V., and remote staff located around the country, McREL continues its mission through its thought leadership and by providing customized, consultative solutions for the challenges facing educators today—and tomorrow.

Bryan Goodwin, McREL’s president and CEO, said, “Through all of the changes in education in the past 50 years, we’ve been here, working hard to make a difference for students, teachers, and leaders. For the next 50 years, through changes big and small, we will continue to find new and better ways to ensure all kids everywhere get the education they need to succeed in life.”

McREL International is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving education for all students through applied research, product development, and professional service to teachers and education leaders. For more information, contact Roger Fiedler, director of communications, at 800.858.6830 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

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PeopleAdmin and McREL partner to bring K-12 districts evaluation technology and actionable data to improve staff performance

April 13, 2016

Fast-growing leader in strategic talent management becomes the exclusive technology partner for the recognized leader in framework-based evaluation systems; offers a unified tech solution for evaluating teachers and principals

DENVER — PeopleAdmin, the leader in talent management software for education, and McREL International, the leader in research-based evaluation and professional development systems, announced an exclusive partnership today that empowers K-12 administrators to more easily use technology and data to improve teacher and principal effectiveness and focus on improving student outcomes.

The two companies form a significant partnership. This is critical in education today as many districts anticipate changes to their teacher evaluation models in light of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. The new law shifts the federal oversight of teacher supervision, performance and professional development back to the states.

The partnership combines the research strengths of McREL and its experiences transforming districts through consultative services with the proven evaluation technology of PeopleAdmin’s TalentEd Perform, the most comprehensive and flexible performance evaluation tool used by districts across the country.

“Through this collaboration, administrators will gain easier access to the combined strengths of our two organizations,” said Kermit S. Randa, CEO of PeopleAdmin. “It brings a great advantage to our customers and to K-12 administrators who recognize the importance of having an easier, effective way to evaluate educators and staff using proven technology and research-based expertise.”

Administrators can leverage TalentEd Perform’s easy-to-use technology to simplify and automate supervision tasks, processes, workflows, reminders, recordkeeping, and compliance requirements. They can also gain valuable insights through McREL’s actionable data and powerful reporting tools for analyzing educator effectiveness, school improvement, program implementation progress, and targeted professional development planning.

“Our evaluation systems focus on the professional growth of teachers and education leaders, using research-based, practice-proven rubrics that help educators hone their abilities to help students flourish,” said Bryan Goodwin, CEO of McREL International. “By partnering with People Admin, we are able to bring these great practices to even more educators.”

“The passion, research orientation and sense of duty that the McREL team has is extraordinary,” Randa added. “Many customers have benefitted from our past integration. By taking that even further, our partnership has the potential to help thousands of schools currently leveraging our solutions.”

McREL is recognized globally for its research-based evaluation frameworks for teachers, principals, superintendents and central office leaders, and has for decades conducted educator effectiveness research.

PeopleAdmin, which last year acquired Netchemia and SearchSoft Solutions, serves a third of all educators and administrators across the U.S. education spectrum, who in turn serve more than 30 percent of all students in America. It was founded in 2000.

The partnership evolves from McREL’s previous relationship with SearchSoft Solutions and deepens both companies commitment to excellence in education and helping schools and districts achieve higher levels of performance.

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About PeopleAdmin
PeopleAdmin is the leading provider of cloud-based talent management solutions for education and government. Its software enables clients to streamline the hiring process, onboard new employees, efficiently manage positions and employee performance, develop compliant and defensible audit trails, and use industry-leading reporting and metrics. PeopleAdmin’s integrated talent management suite includes applicant tracking, faculty search committee management, position management, onboarding, and performance management. PeopleAdmin solutions are rapidly deployed, easy to use and supported through a world-class customer service organization. Visit www.peopleadmin.com for more information.

About McREL
McREL International is a private nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to high-quality applied research, development, and service to educators across the U.S. and around the world. By translating information into knowledge, knowledge into action, and action into results, McREL helps transform mindsets, collaborating with educators and system leaders to help students flourish.

McREL to help expand online educational programs for NASA’s CosmoQuest

March 9, 2016

DENVER – McREL International is among ten collaborating institutions that will work over the next five years to expand and enhance public education and outreach efforts for NASA’s CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility.

Launched in 2012, CosmoQuest.org is designed to provide students, teachers, and the public with an experience online that is similar to experiences available at traditional brick-and-mortar research centers. The “citizen science” site includes science projects like MoonMappers, which invites the public to help map craters and other features of the moon, plus online classes, seminars, and teacher materials.

Funded by an $11.5 million award from NASA, the new collaboration will bring together scientists, educators, and software developers to create new educational and outreach programs, online professional learning communities for teachers, and additional citizen science project opportunities.

“With this funding, CosmoQuest will be able to grow from a seedling full of potential into a mighty tree that supports science and learning opportunities,” said the project’s principal investigator, Dr. Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). “We are bringing in new partners with added expertise, and we couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

In addition to SIUE, partners include teams from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, InsightSTEM, Interface Guru, Lawrence Hall of Science, Johnson Space Center, McREL International, the Planetary Science Institute, McDonald Observatory, and Youngstown State University.

SIUE will develop educational activities and CosmoQuest’s software, including that which enables the public to help NASA make new discoveries. To date, CosmoQuest programs have helped NASA’s New Horizons team find Kuiper Belt objects and have helped researchers map features of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Vesta. Future programs, which will expand beyond planetary science, include a partnership with the University of Texas to explore dark energy, and with Johnson Space Center to help earth scientists more effectively use astronaut images to study our changing planet.

McREL’s consultants will work with educators to integrate CosmoQuest activities into the classroom and help deepen their practice through a CosmoQuest professional learning community highlighting space and earth sciences. In addition, McREL’s research and evaluation team will conduct rigorous internal evaluation of CosmoQuest initiatives to ensure the project is reaching its goal of making impactful innovations.

“We’re working with a network of amazing educational professionals who can support teachers bringing authentic science into their classrooms,” said SIUE researcher Georgia Bracey. “We’re working to build a lasting community for teachers, including an online home where they can get help and share their own lessons learned.”

To learn more, please visit CosmoQuest.org.

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New white paper from McREL challenges educators to approach reform from the “inside out”

January 4, 2016

DENVER — A new white paper from McREL International urges education leaders and policy makers to rethink the current, top-down approach to reform and consider what might happen if we improved our schools from the inside out.

In The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out, McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin shows how the past three decades of education reform—in which teachers and school leaders nationwide have shouldered the burden of large-scale initiatives such as the standards-based movement, No Child Left Behind, and the Common Core State Standards—have done little to change student outcomes. Despite the good intentions of these efforts to improve learning for all students, today’s achievement levels remain stagnant, gaps persist, and the U.S. continues to lag behind on international assessments.

The reason for this, Goodwin writes, is not the initiatives themselves but the way we carry them out—with a heavy-handed, top-down approach to reform that has not only not improved achievement but has led to increased stress among educators and has many fleeing the profession altogether.

An inside-out approach, he explains, instead “puts student engagement, motivation, and true problem-solving abilities at the heart of everything we do”—creating a different, more powerful outcome for all students that sets them up for lifelong success: curiosity.

Curiosity, Goodwin says, is linked with many other desirable student characteristics—motivation, passion, engagement, growth-mindedness, inquiry—but what may be most powerful about it is that it’s not difficult to develop in students, and most teachers and school leaders are already familiar with the practices that allow it to flourish.

The paper outlines a few key, consistent actions schools systems can take to approach reform from the inside out:

  • Develop shared understanding about the moral purpose of schooling
  • Put student curiosity, engagement, and motivation at the center of learning rather than focusing on teacher performance
  • Build on bright spots in current practice and teacher strengths
  • Develop leaders as change agents and questioners
  • Fail forward with rapid-cycle improvement
  • Re-discover peer coaching
  • Reframe the goal, balancing standardized achievement tests with performance assessments

Goodwin acknowledges possible barriers to this approach but also highlights examples of schools and districts that have already successfully used it. In the end, he says, “We loathe the constraints of our current reform paradigm, yet underestimate our power to walk away from it”—and experience what could be the freedom of a new, more engaging system of schooling.

The free paper can be downloaded from the McREL website.

McREL International is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving education for all students through applied research, product development, and professional service to teachers and education leaders. For more information, contact Roger Fiedler, director of communications, at 800.858.6830 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

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McREL, USC, and partners awarded i3 grant to create digital game that boosts student motivation

December 7, 2015

DENVER—McREL International, the University of Southern California (USC), and a coalition of partner agencies have won a five-year, $2,669,593 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a digital game that will improve the “identity-based motivation” (IBM) of middle and high school students to be successful, engaged learners.

McREL and USC’s partners on the project, titled “Identity-Based Motivation Journey to Academic Success,” include Filament Games, South Central Colorado BOCES (SCBOCES), and the University of Illinois.

Co-directed by McREL researcher Katie Andersen and USC Dean’s Professor Daphna Oyserman, the project will focus on the key elements of IBM theory: making the future feel relevant and connected to the present, making difficulty feel like evidence that schoolwork is important, and creating a sense that effective learning strategies “fit” with one’s identity.

“We are excited about figuring out how to harness student motivation to improve success not through good intentions alone but by taking the time to carefully test the conditions in which an innovation works,” said Oyserman. “Our short-term goal is to improve academic outcomes; in the long run, the project should create a larger cohort of students ready for the next step—college and beyond.”

The i3 grant competition supports the development and expansion of research-based programs that can transform the academic trajectory of students, educators, and their schools. Grants are awarded based on the rigor of research shown to support projects across three categories: Development, Validation, and Scale-up. In addition, the i3 grant requires awardees to secure matching funds or in-kind contributions of 15 percent from the private sector within 90 days of receiving the award.

The game will be developed with Filament Games, a production studio based in Madison, Wisconsin, that exclusively creates learning games, combining best practices in commercial game development with key concepts from the learning sciences. CEO Dan White said, “We couldn’t be more excited to explore the intersection of games and identity for this project, particularly because research shows that identity immersion is one of the greatest strengths of game-based learning.”

The game will be piloted and tested with Colorado students and educators, through a partnership with SCBOCES, with the goal of helping students develop “those non-cognitive skills that are often overlooked in the K‒12 classroom,” said Executive Director Henry Roman, such as the development of academic perseverance, positive mindsets, and self-directed learning strategies.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign associate professor Kristen Bub will conduct the external evaluation of the project, ensuring fidelity of implementation and rigorously testing the impact of the project on student outcomes. Bub looks forward to working on a project that “innovatively combines what we know from multiple disciplines, including education, psychology, and computer science, about learning and development to improve school engagement and achievement among a diverse sample of middle and high school students.”

About McREL

McREL International is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving education for all students through applied research, product development, and professional service to teachers and education leaders.

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