Theory of Change
A systematic approach to delivering and monitoring interventions to struggling students has been shown to be very effective for remediating learning challenges. However, such a system places demands on teachers that very few have been trained to meet. If teachers were able to easily identify individual student’s academic and behavioral needs, find appropriate interventions, and monitor intervention efficacy, schools would be able to better implement an intervention system (proximal outcome) and student outcomes would improve (distal outcome).
Understanding why students struggle to master academic skills is critical for remediating learning challenges efficiently. Decades of established research have uncovered many of the specific cognitive and academic skills necessary for educational success in certain academic domains. For example, through comprehensive factor analysis researchers and educators know that working memory, processing speed, and specific language skills—including phonemic awareness, phoneme-grapheme mapping, morphological awareness, syntax, and vocabulary are critical for reading decoding and fluency. Branching Minds provides an observation-based survey that helps teachers understand why a student is struggling in a particular academic domain by narrowing in on the cognitive and academic skills within a specific academic area. The questions in the Branching Minds survey are based on research that reveals what it looks like when students are struggling with specific cognitive skills. The wording of the questions and scaffolding for observing the behaviors are developed and reviewed by a team of cognitive psychologists, veteran educators, and expert consultants, ensuring the platform is teacher-friendly and consistent with the scientific research and psychometric standards.
The next step in the intervention process is to find interventions that are effective for remediating learning challenges. Branching Minds connects teachers to specific interventions based on the exact learning needs of the student. The interventions recommended by Branching Minds are empirically supported and curated from resources like What Works Clearinghouse, Intervention Central, the Florida Center for Reading Research, and leading learning specialists in the field.
For free resources (e.g., teaching strategies), Branching Minds describes why and how teachers should implement the intervention—helping teachers to deliver the intervention with fidelity. For licensed or copyrighted resources (e.g., programs), Branching Minds describes why teachers should use the support and directs them to the resource site. Easy access to research-based interventions that are linked directly to a student’s learning needs ensures that teachers use the right methods to remediate the student’s learning challenges.
The final step necessary for teachers to support the intervention process is to monitor students’ progress and track the effectiveness of the interventions. This requires the periodic assessment of the specific skill the intervention is intended to target. The research on progress monitoring strongly recommends that teachers use curriculum-based measurements (CBMs) to gauge student growth in an intervention system. CBMs are quick and highly reliable measures of student growth in a given academic domain. These tested and standardized assessments provide educators with grade level expectations and help teachers compare student progress to a standard goal. To support teachers in this process, Branching Minds recommends the appropriate CBM to use for each student based on their area of need and explains when and how the CBM should be administered. Branching Minds also provides graphical representations of the student progress and guidance on whether or not the progress is sufficient to meet the established performance goal.
Through this process, Branching Minds provides educators the ability to implement an intervention system with fidelity by helping teachers understand students’ learning needs, find proven interventions, and monitor progress effectively. With the help of Branching Minds, teachers and schools can develop and implement a systematic approach to intervention that is shown to have a large and significant impact on improving student outcomes.
Our Research Team
Eva Dundas, Ph.D.
Chief Learning Officer
Eva focuses on using research from the learning sciences to align the Branching Minds platform with best practices in education. She has 12 years of research experience examining the cognitive development of children, ranging from infancy to late adolescence. Eva has a PhD in Developmental and Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University; a MEd in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University; and BS in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh.
Katie Davis, Psy.D.
Director of Assessments
Katie completed her doctorate in Clinical and School Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychology at Yeshiva University, and performed her pre-doctoral clinical training at the Churchill School and Center and Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Neurosurgery. She received a BA with honors in Education Studies at Brown University and an MA in School Psychology from Yeshiva University.
Robert Pasternack, Ph.D.
Former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education. Led the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
L. Todd Rose, Ph.D.
Director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Author of The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.
Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D.
Chair of Education and Associate Professor of Education at Lasell College. Advisory Board Member for RTI Action Network.
Former Director of General and Special Education Initiatives in Schools at Bank Street College.
Jere Confrey, Ph.D.
Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Education at North Carolina State University. Research Committee Member for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
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