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Company uses student research in learning system development

May 22, 2014 2:00PM

Devin Schulze

Psychology students at Pittsburg State University need opportunities to use their applied research skills. At the same time, Pitsco Education relies on solid research to guide the development and improvement of its STEM learning systems. The resulting partnership benefits both.

Recently, PSU students have been or are involved in multiple research projects for the company, according to Jamie Wood, professor in the Psychology and Counseling Department. One of those, which looked at the effectiveness of a Pitsco method for teaching algebra, was presented at the annual convention of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education.

Devin Schulze, a senior from Pittsburg, examined data gathered from a large school district in southeastern U.S., that compared classrooms using traditional methods of algebra instruction to classrooms using a Pitsco product that combines computer-assisted instruction involving cooperative learning, individualized lessons and group activities. Schulze said he found that students who used the Pitsco program did better.

“We found that if you include cooperative learning – students who worked in groups or teams – the ability for them to learn algebra increased,” Schulze said. “The test scores increased and that was true across genders and all ethnic groups.”

Dorcia Johnson, documentation manager for Pitsco, said the company uses studies such as that conducted by Schulze to continuously improve its educational products.

“We take this information back to our development team and use it to improve our products,” Johnson said.

Matt Frankenbery, vice president for education at Pitsco, said research is vital to the company.

“The research is the name of the game,” Frankenbery said, “because accountability is critical for us. The research has to validate that (the product) is actually effective.”

In addition to driving improvements to their products, Frankenbery said, the research is also an important tool as they market their strategies to a growing number of schools.

“Hands-on learning is what we specialize in,” Frankenbery said. “At this time, there’s really a shortage of studies about hands-on learning, but I believe in the next 20 years, a lot of research is going to prove the effectiveness of engaging students’ hands and minds through real-world activities.”

Frankenbery also talked about the importance of teachers and school districts.

“The research is only as good as the site implementing the program,” he said. “We have always believed the power of the classroom teacher and the support of the school district is critical to every learning experience. That’s why we place a tremendous amount of energy into building relationships with our customers.”

Wood said the projects that students do with companies like Pitsco are especially meaningful because of their real-world significance.

“Research projects such as this can lead to better educational outcomes for both K-12 students and also PSU students, as well,” Wood said.

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