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Sunil Gunderia, Chief Innovation Officer, Age of Learning: Evidence Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4

In our interview with Chief Innovation Officer at Age of Learning, Sunil Gunderia, he reflects on Age of Learning’s evidence-building practices with schools in response to the question, “As an edtech developer, please share how Age of Learning has partnered with schools to engage in evidence-building across the different levels of evidence?”

Age of Learning is an education technology developer for young learners and the creator of® Early Learning Academy, a research-based program used by fifty million children worldwide. Gunderia started our conversation by sharing a key consideration the company adopts when approaching schools with a prospective research-practice partnership to evaluate an edtech intervention:

When you approach a district with your solution you have to be clear on what problem you’re solving for their students and you build up from there.

Gunderia shared that Age of Learning used a research-based approach to develop My Math Academy®, an adaptive, personalized learning program designed to support young learners achieving proficiency in math. They engaged in initial evidence-building activities such as developing a theory of change and conducting a thorough literature review to create a plan of action. A critical component of the theory of change included gathering evidence to explore My Math Academy’s effectiveness. To do this, the company engaged in additional Tier 4 evidence-building activities by developing a logic model and conducting small-scale case studies to gather teacher and parent feedback to inform future research.

Age of Learning partnered with WestEd, a non-profit research organization, to use insights gained from these small-scale studies to conduct a randomized controlled trial study (Tier 1) in Los Angeles Unified School District. The study, conducted over 12 weeks, randomly assigned 20 kindergarten and transitional-kindergarten classrooms to either use My Math Academy (treatment) or continue with business-as usual instruction (control). The results from this study  suggested positive outcomes for students who used the program. .

During the pandemic, Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District (HCISD) in rural Cameron County, Texas, implemented My Math Academy with 976 prekindergarten students in 57 classrooms. Sixty-one percent of children in the cohort were classified as at-risk. HCISD partnered with Age of Learning on a quasi-experimental study meeting Tier 2 evidence standards.

Through these experiences, Gunderia has found that districts are interested in engaging in research partnerships when developers work with schools to make the evidence-building process adaptable:

There are plenty of districts willing to partner if you provide the right incentives, come to them with solutions to problems that they know they need to solve, and work with them, and their teachers, to make implementation as flexible as possible.

Age of Learning continues to conduct research on their various technology-based programs in different school and student contexts. To date they have published findings from several (Tier 3) correlational studies with additional studies underway. An upcoming study for My Math Academy is a $3.5 million research grant awarded to WestEd from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The 2-year study is part of an IES initiative funding research to evaluate instructional strategies and materials for improving students’ STEM learning.

This study hopes to shine new light on understanding the implementation of technology-based programs in authentic school settings. Research dissemination will focus on identifying best practices for how to use technology-based programs, such as My Math Academy, in classrooms; and to what extent these kinds of programs might support positive learning outcomes for students.

Age of Learning strives to use their partnership work with schools to align interests on how to best implement and design educational technology to drive positive student outcomes. They believe that building a broad-evidence base is critical to ensuring that students experience positive gains from using technology-based programs as a component of personalized student learning experiences.