Student achievement: The measure of our success

Female college student in library using a digital tablet

Efficacy is a big word. We use it daily within my department. In fact, that word is part of my actual job title. What does “efficacy” really mean though when it comes to the work that we do? At the core is our genuine desire to enable and empower learner success. A lofty goal, no doubt, but less daunting with the framework or way of working with students and educators we’ve developed across three broad categories:

  1. Capture evidence regarding how well our products and services actually deliver against the intended learner outcomes.
  2. Use the evidence collected to inform the design and delivery of scalable implementation models that help other customers achieve their goals.
  3. Use the evidence to quantify the experience learners, educators, and institutions have when using our products and services, and identify opportunities to improve the product as well as the implementation model.

So those are three really big but integral themes, especially when we are able to closely align with the challenges and goals shared by educators in school and college classrooms. Working closely with educators, our success is measured by our ability to demonstrate that we are enabling learner achievement.

Measuring that achievement in any course, class, or program is quite complex. Our goal is never to go into a school or district and tell them what they should be achieving or what they should be measuring. First and foremost, we try to determine the educators’ objectives. We ask: “What outcomes do you want to see?” “What are your big goals?” “What are the challenges that you face?” Answers to these big questions enable us to begin to understand the context of their situation.

Context leads to understanding and ultimately, collaboration with our customers. Using information we have collected from other customers, as well as the data we captured during product development, together we craft a plan of services and products that align to the outcomes and goals that are most vital to the customer. For example, we might suggest a specific product and specific model of implementation because our evidence supports the likelihood that the outcomes most important to the customer can be achieved through the product and implementation design we recommend. This partnership and close collaboration with our customers is the heart of what we do to help improve learner outcomes and ultimately, learner success. We continually learn from our customers who are facing challenges, changing demographics, changing markets, and they’re innovating, thinking about different ways to improve the progression and success of their students. So we learn from our customers, which adds to a growing body of evidence and helps Pearson continue to learn and improve our products.

An important extension to our collaboration with customers often results in the development of efficacy studies that document the specific learner outcomes and learner impact that our products and services are enabling. We have long developed studies, following the guidelines established by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) regarding evaluation of education technology products. More recently, we have agreed to align all of our evidence collection around standards of evidence recognized by the research communities to ensure that we are reporting and following the highest standards regarding data reporting, including data privacy and data security. Our efficacy results team will dig into the context of what educators are trying to achieve, but then they go deeper. They ask questions such as, “How are you defining your goals from a learner’s point of view, from your program’s point of view, and from your institution’s point of view?” “What data do we have to help us understand learner progress and success?” “What are the critical milestones and points of engagement with learners?” This opens up a really interesting conversation around all of the touchpoints that we have an opportunity to explore that help empower students and their learning. Over the past few years we have developed well over 600 studies in close partnership with educators all across North America. These studies are publicly available and detail the lessons learned, best practices, and suggested implementation models to enable and empower other educators who face similar challenges.

I want to stress the point here, we are not controlling this whole process, we are enabling it. If we’re successful it’s because we are enabling something really important and powerful to happen in a class; we’re able to help shine a light on things that can either improve an experience, accelerate progression, or help deliver more students through a program. This is fundamental to why I feel so passionately about the work we are doing at Pearson and especially in North America directly with educators and learners. We see a lot of statistics every day, including statistics highlighting the improvements in course pass rates. While the improvement in pass rates-learner success is inspiring, these results only matter because there are people behind those numbers.

I never forget that every one of those numbers is a person. As we know all too well, many students taking remedial courses in college don’t succeed the first time. Many may not choose to try again. Too many of them believe that they aren’t good students, that they can’t “do” math, and start to believe a narrative that limits their potential. However, when you see the evidence that an intervention, a product, or a teacher and learner experience has changed that narrative, it becomes very real and very powerful. When you see the data for one thousand students in a remedial math course and their pass rate goes up ten or 15 percent after their educators chose to work with Pearson, you recognize that 100 to 150 students are now passing the course and progressing. That’s what matters. Helping learners make progress is what motivates us and why we are so committed to partnering with educators and institutions directly.

It doesn’t get any better than hearing directly from students who want you to know that our work has helped them progress and achieve THEIR goals to become a college graduate, earn that diploma, certificate or qualification. Being a part of the business where you can think about and commit to understand how we deliver on a better promise to learn is really important to me. That’s why I have invested my entire career at Pearson and why I am excited every day for the future of education, the impact of great teachers, and the opportunity we have to demonstrate the efficacy of our products.


About the Author
John Tweeddale, SVP

John Tweeddale, SVP

John Tweeddale is senior vice president of efficacy and quality at Pearson North America. John has spent his entire career in educational publishing and technology. He started his career as a higher education sales representative, became sales manager, and then director of marketing for Prentice Hall Engineering/Science/Math/Computing. In 2003, he moved to London to take a role as director for higher education and professional education publishing and became the national sales manager for Allyn & Bacon/Longman, and then for the higher education humanities/social studies team. After a year as senior vice president/director of marketing strategy for the Arts & Sciences group, he accepted an assignment as chief customer experience officer for higher education.