Recent Independent Research Points To Significant Math Gains When Combining Expert Online Tutors With Cignition’s Data-Driven Game-Based Learning Platform
Cignition’s unique online tutoring program, combining expert certified math teachers with an engaging data-driven game-based learning environment, has attained strong results over a ten-week multi-school random control trial evaluated by Digital Promise. This rigorous research, supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Schmidt Futures, provides a reliable benchmark for school administrators, educators, and parents, looking for evidence of effective educational technology (edtech) shown to improve math learning gains, especially timely as online learning solutions are sought during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Digital Promise paper describes the main research question as, do students who participate in Cignition’s online tutoring and related mathematics game learn more about fractions than students who only have access to the game? 144 fifth-grade students completed the study across five separate sites. Students were nominated by the teachers on the basis of needing additional support. In the treatment condition, Cignition provided 10 weeks of tutoring, twice a week, with each online session providing approximately 25 minutes of live tutoring. Tutors were experienced mathematics teachers who were carefully screened by Cignition. Tutors met with students in Cignition's online environment where they could talk and also each draw on a shared whiteboard.
In addition, students were able to play Cignition’s learning game “FogStone Isle,” both before and after tutoring sessions. Game play generates a dashboard for tutors showing what concepts students might be struggling with and their level of procedural fluency. Also, tutors could assign follow-up work in the game after a tutoring session and receive a report on the student’s work. Thus, game play and tutoring were interwoven to target areas of fraction understanding in most need.
The paper refers to a meta study by Pellegrini et al. (2018) which reviewed 78 studies of 61 educational intervention programs, stating that “Particularly positive outcomes were found for tutoring programs.” Pellegrini reported that “overall, the weighted mean effect size for one-to-one face-to-face tutoring was +0.26”. Digital Promise found a significant effect size for the study of Cignition tutoring of +0.47.
The paper states, “Based on prior research (Pellegrini 2018) one might anticipate that face-to-face tutoring would increase learning, but it was unclear whether online tutoring would work, especially with students who are in fifth grade. The data supported our hypothesis that it would work; the effect sizes in favor of online tutoring were encouraging. Combining tutoring and game components may have contributed both by informing tutors as to what issues students were encountering and by allowing tutors to assign targeted follow-up to students.”
They also say, “By way of meaningfulness, an effect size of .40 is commonly interpreted as corresponding to an additional year of instruction. If the effect size in this approach could be maintained for a full year, students would gain as much as they would in an additional year of math instruction. As many students are a year behind their peers in math when they are in fifth grade, this is a meaningful effect; it could allow students with weak prior knowledge to meet grade-level expectations.”
Finally, the study authors noted; these results are particularly timely now, as many students are at home under shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19. The approach taken here is feasible for students at home, with tutors supporting them from a distance. In this case, tutoring over the summer might help students prepare for their next grade level, partially making up for any weaknesses in instruction during Spring 2020.
Mike Cohen, CEO and Founder of Cignition stated, "We are very excited to see the results of this random control trial support the value of the Cignition tutoring platform in helping kids overcome problems in their math learning. Cignition was founded to help every child achieve conceptual understanding of mathematics. We closely collaborate with neuroscientists, learning scientists, and many teachers, validating our program’s efficacy through rigorous independent research. Our goal is to provide the highest quality math learning solutions that are affordable and accessible to all children."