Research furthering Adaptive Assessments for Early Childhood Math

Ken Wright has a background in education; as a physics teacher, Ken was inspired to pursue his doctorate studies at Vanderbilt. Shortly after finishing his PhD, he came to the University of Denver to work with leaders in the field of mathematics education for young learners. Over the last several months, Wright, a post doc at Morgridge College of Education, has dived into research that will likely transform the realm of mathematics in Early Childhood Education by assisting Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama in the NSF funded CREMAT research. Along with participating in powerful research, Wright recently received the honored Gordon Fellowship.

Through the CREMAT research, Wright works alongside Clements, Sarama and their colleagues to develop an adaptive test for early childhood mathematics by using statistical innovations and computer technology. This responsive test adapts to the way a child answers questions, gathering a richer set of information to build a profile about what the child conceptually understands rather than just scoring him/her on a numeric scale. The CREMAT will provide more thorough results in less time than current mathematics assessments while also giving opportunities for individualized teaching and learning to improve the areas in which the child is struggling. Wright, with others, has started gathering data for a baseline of results by administering the assessment, analyzing the assessment items and writing and rewriting the questions that are posed to a child to best determine his/her knowledge and skills. In Wright’s pilot testing, he has collected data from Fisher Early Learning Center and Cherry Creek Schools, while the team works to establish additional sites for further field testing.

Upon coming to Morgridge College of Education and working on the CREMAT project, Wright was awarded the Gordon Fellowship, which aligns distinguished scholars with mentors to further dialogue on the topic of educational assessment. “The Gordon Fellowship is an effort to bring assessment into coordination with teaching and learning, encouraging all Gordon Fellows to think as a society about how we’ve come to understand what children are learning, what they know and how they respond to it.” Wright states. Ken explains the importance of establishing proper assessments within the educational system: “It’s not an assessment unless you are taking that information and making it available to the student and the teacher in a way where both can adjust what they are doing.”

As a Gordon Fellow, Wright will use the CREMAT research experience to participate in a collaborative mentoring group, creating ongoing dialogue between the Gordon Commission’s experienced authors and an aspiring younger generation of scholars about adding new life and new ideas for improving teaching methods, assessments, and policy.

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