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Study Links Learning Gains to Whiteboard Use

A recent study on behalf of ed-tech company Promethean Ltd. finds that the incorporation of interactive whiteboards, accompanying software and hardware, and in-person and online professional development increased student achievement on teacher-designed tests across core academic subjects by an average of 16 percent.

The study, conducted by the independent Marzano Research Laboratory, took data from more than 5,000 students and 120 teachers from a broad, but not randomly assigned, range of schools and districts, over the course of two years. The results are derived from individual comparisons of gains of scores among students instructed by the same teacher. In each case, one group of students took a lesson, and corresponding pretest and post-test, with the Promethean equipment, and the other group took the lesson without it.

While there were some complications in the design—the lack of standardization among different teacher tests, for example, and the reality that English and history tests lend themselves to more qualitative exercises while math and sciences elicit more quantitative responses—researchers independent of the project said it made proper concessions to those factors in order to measure results in an authentic classroom environment.

"Under the circumstances of trying to run experiments in realistic conditions 'in the field,' it was very well done," Gene V. Glass, a senior researcher at the University of Colorado's National Education Policy Center, said in an email. "One way of phrasing their findings is that a class employing the technology would gain 12 months' achievement in a 9-month school year."

The study adds to a small but growing body of work that shows positive outcomes resulting from the integration of classroom technology. In late August, a study involving the application of classroom management software in Algebra 1 classrooms showed significant gains among students in classes where the software was used. In that study, as in this one, the treatment was viewed not only as the technology, but also the accompanying professional development.

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