A recent randomized control trial conducted by Sarama and colleagues compares the order of instructional activities promoted within a learning trajectories (LT) approach to a reverse-sequence (REV) design and a business-as-usual (BAU) design. The LT approach operates under the assumption that a student learns best when content and activities are sequenced according to the children’s developmental progression or level of thinking. In comparison, the theoretical approach of the REV design is supported by some research suggesting that challenging students with content beyond their current level of thinking may help them see the value in future instruction designed to facilitate their understanding of the challenging material.
The study focused on the development of length measurement understanding and involved 185 kindergarten students, with 69 assigned to the LT condition, 59 assigned to the REV condition, and 57 assigned to the BAU condition. Students assigned to the LT condition and REV condition received ten 12-minute (total 120 minutes) one-on-one instructional sections over the course of multiple weeks while students assigned to the BAU condition did not receive any additional instruction. Researchers developed an assessment of length measurement learning based on the Research-Based Early Mathematics Assessment and the Cognitively Based Assessment. A model comparing the LT condition with the BAU condition and REV condition indicates evidence:
- Significant positive effects for the LT approach when compared with BAU (ES = + 0.58) and with REV (ES = + 0.32).
- This provides evidence that the material provided in the LT approach is effective and that the order in which this material is presented is important for maximizing student learning.
The authors acknowledge that differing instructional approaches between the LT and REV groups may have also affected student outcomes beyond the ordering of the instructional material. However, the authors indicate this is the first study to focus on sequence of material presented in the LT approach and it therefore provides valuable insight on the approach’s usefulness and may provide direction for future research.
Source (Open Access): Sarama, J., Clements, D. H., Baroody, A. J., Kutaka, T. S., Chernyavskiy, P., Shi, J., & Cong, M. (2021). Testing a Theoretical Assumption of a Learning-Trajectories Approach in Teaching Length Measurement to Kindergartners. AERA Open, 7, 23328584211026656. https://doi.org/10.1177/23328584211026657