How might we help teachers support and empower individual student progress in language learning?
The STORYWORLD analytics dashboard gives language teachers greater insight into what each student knows or is learning in real time, so that they can better plan their lessons, break their classes into appropriate groups, and deliver personalized instruction.
In collaboration with STORYWORLD founder, bilingual educators and researchers, I developed the analytics dashboard from ideation to launch. This project helped us win the NewSchools Ignite ELL Challenge the summer of 2016!
Objective & Strategy
Give Insights into Unique Learning Needs
Teaching students to read and speak in a new language can be hard, especially as students come from diverse backgrounds and have different learning needs. In California, for example, newly arrived Spanish-speaking immigrant students often struggle with a regular school curriculum that requires English proficiency, lagging behind their advantaged counterparts.
STORYWORLD provides a simple tool to help educators track each student’s progress in different areas, including fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and engagement. This enables teachers to identify learning problems and facilitate learning by providing students with important feedback on their progress.
Learning data > Results > Planning tool > New outcomes
Key Design Principles
Provide actionable information, not simply data
Communicate how the presented learning data help teachers plan, improve and differentiate instruction
Who is the falling behind in class and needs support?
What particularly words and narratives is my class struggling with?
How can I use this information to plan my lessons?
I considered the navigation flow in terms of the STORYWORLD platform as a whole, not just the dashboard itself. For example, teachers must be able to access other STORYWORLD products like the “Home Library” and manage their user account on top of their class account. After I introduced the “Account Navigation” bar, I found that while many layers of nav bars offer clear organizational hierarchy, they can diminish accessibility. So I eliminated superfluous navigation items within the dashboard.
Final Flow chart
Overcome creative roadblocks through visual dialogues
I used the three following questions as a framework for solving specific design problems:
Are we measuring reporting the right things?
What is it that teachers should be focusing on?
Is it a simple dashboard?
Questions First, Data Second
After the first few iterations, we decided to show the mock up to a Bilingual educator to see if her reactions validated our direction. My biggest concern was that the default dashboard view, which was supposed to provide a nice and simple overview, would appear to appear too visually overloaded.
To get authentic feedback, we framed the discussion in such a way that focused on the educator’s needs rather confining her input to the visual context of my design. The open-ended session allowed her to introduce concepts which became so critical in the early development of the teacher dashboard.
Who are the users?
My second interview with an instructional designer resulted in a big shift in our design approach. She raised the question of user-persona. Are we designing for teachers or educational specialists? Teachers are more likely to be more problem-driven, as they want to know how learning results can be converted into actionable lesson plans. Specialists, on other hand, might be more interested in the data points and patterns they reflect.
Our goal was of course to help teachers. This shifted my focus from the presentation of data to the prioritization and usability of data. For example, instead of displaying the number of words each student clicked, we show top ten words and phrases the students are having trouble learning. This way, the teacher has a better idea of what vocabulary to review in class or use to design their lessons.
What is the narrative?
Framing our design in the context of user personas helped us to dig deep into the most compelling and realistic use cases. We came up with four different types of learners based on performance, background, and needs/challenges in language learning:
the high achiever
the average learner
the slow reader
the low achiever
As we saw how the data we present might correlate with real-life scenarios, we were able to predict how the analytic dashboard will be useful to teachers.
In developing each persona, we asked the following questions:
What performance results are expected to look like?
In what cases will the data have impact on the teachers’ decisions?
Make learning analytics accessible, easy to understand, and actionable
Formative evaluation data by student includes:
At-a-glance overall summary of student progress,
Words/phrases accessed for audio and translation support (or “Top 10” words/phrases)
Results of comprehension exercises
Time spent reading each book as a measure of fluency
Total time reading on platform (by day, week, month, etc) as a measure of engagement
Status of student reading ability by level as a measure of overall language proficiency
Formative evaluation data by class is designed to provide immediate actionable data for language teachers such as:
Learners with highest challenges regarding vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, or engagement
Words/phrases most accessed by the entire class for either audio and/or translation scaffolding
Narratives that presented the greatest challenge for the entire class.
Learning Management Tools: e.g. the assignment tool allows teachers to control the pace of learning. They can reassign old readings to reinforce comprehension or unlock new content to further engagement.