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Katie Boody Adorno, CEO & Founder, Leanlab Education: Evidence Tier 4, Tier 3, Tier 1

In our interview with CEO and Founder of Leanlab Education, Katie Boody Adorno, she reflects on Leanlab Education’s evidence-building partnership work with EdTech developers and schools in response to the prompt, “Please describe Leanlab Education’s partnership work with EdTech developers and schools to support evidence-building practices across the levels of evidence.”

Katie Boody Adorno spoke with us about how Leanlab Education, a research non-profit, partners with schools and developers to support evidence-based educational technology adoption in schools:

We align partnerships to school districts’ existing priorities and their strategic plans. We work to build relational trust, or leverage existing relationships, across hierarchies within school systems. And finally, we work to leverage co-design to ensure the studies are mutually beneficial to both the participating edtech companies and the school communities participating.

Leanlab Education is partnering with education technology developer Sown to Grow, in coordination with schools in California, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma, to support evidence-based practices. Sown to Grow is a social-emotional learning tool that uses customizable weekly digital check-ins, goal setting, and reflections to help students develop social, emotional, and academic competencies. Sown to Grow’s efforts to collect evidence of impact has resulted in an iterative and ongoing research journey.

Leanlab Education’s partnership work with Sown to Grow aims to increase ease of use for teachers by integrating a feature that analyzes students’ reflections and auto-generates recommendations for high-quality feedback.

The research and development of this automated feedback feature with Leanlab Education was funded by a 2021 NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. This support kickstarted a series of research partnerships with schools across the U.S. and built upon existing Tier 4 evidence, including a logic model developed with support from education non-profit, Digital Promise.

Sown to Grow enlisted Leanlab Education to begin two successive research studies in 2021: study 1 examined implementation and correlational findings for the intervention and study 2 investigated the feasibility of Sown to Grow’s feedback feature. Both studies sought to meet the Promising Evidence standards laid out in Tier 3.

Boody Adorno shared the following about Leanlab Education’s partnership work with Sown to Grow:

Leanlab leveraged existing regional school relationships with leadership at Gordon Parks Elementary, a Kansas City charter school, and Clinton County R3 School District in Plattsburg, Missouri for the initial implementation and correlational study. Leanlab co-designed the study with teachers, administrators and parents to assess the correlation between using Sown to Grow, and (1) how teachers perceive their self-efficacy to teach social emotional learning, and (2) changes in self-awareness and self-management among students.

With the evidence collected from the implementation and correlational study with Gordon Parks Elementary and Clinton County R3 School District, Sown to Grow was able to secure another SBIR grant to further develop their SEL platform. Given the significant product changes since earlier studies, Leanlab and Sown to Grow conducted additional usability and correlational studies (Tiers 4 & 3) across nine schools in California, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio during the fall of 2022.

With these learnings, Sown to Grow approached four client schools about a new research partnership to identify barriers to students and teachers using the technology to its full potential: Alta Loma Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Northwest Classen High School, and Sheppard Middle School in California and Oklahoma.

With support from Leanlab Education, Sown to Grow is now using the findings from its school research partnership work to update implementation and usage protocols for their platform. Leanlab and Sown to Grow have plans to continue their research journey into the 2023-2024 school year by conducting a randomized controlled trial (Tier 1) to randomly assign students from partner schools in California and Illinois to either an intervention group or a control group. The goal is to collect and analyze data on student outcomes in the intervention and control groups to determine whether the Sown to Grow tool has a significant positive effect on students’ social, emotional, and academic competencies.