Theory of Change

Goal:  All Children Reading

At or Above Grade Level by the end of Third Grade



The Theoretical and Empirical Underpinnings

One of the most difficult tasks teachers face is using assessment data to inform their instructional practice (Roehrig, Duggar et al. 2008). And yet accumulating evidence shows that planning and implementing instructional strategies and content using knowledge about students’ skills and weaknesses can promote stronger student achievement (Deno, Espin et al. 2002).

Technology has a critical support role to play in helping teachers gather, interpret, and act on assessment data to guide instruction, as highlighted in the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan (U.S. Department of Education 2010). This capability, sometimes referred to as “learning analytics,” is viewed by EDUCAUSE as a technology that is “on the horizon,” with great progress expected in the next 4 to 5 years (Johnson, Smith et al. 2011).


Learning Ovations’ technology delivery platform, A2i, is a good example of learning analytics in action. Our theory of change is informed by dynamical systems theories (Yoshikawa and Hsueh 2001) and bioecological theories (Bronfenbrenner and Morris 2006) where multiple sources of influence affect children’s development, including children themselves, and that more proximal influences, such as the home and classroom, have a greater and more direct impact on children’s outcomes than do more distal influences; and small changes in proximal sources of influence can have large effect.


The Learning Ovation theory of change (see graph) starts with the finding that many children who fail to achieve strong literacy skills do so because they do not receive the combination of types and amounts of literacy instruction that are optimal for them (see Connor 2011 for a review).


Thus our theory of change is based on the premise that effective individualized instruction will support stronger literacy development for all students and therefore (1) when teachers use A2i to individualize or differentiate instruction for their students, students demonstrate stronger reading gains.

Theory of Change


Individualizing instruction is important but difficult because (2) there are child X instruction interactions – that is that the effect on student outcomes of specific reading instruction activities depends on children’s entering skills and aptitudes, and that they differ along a range of key dimensions including: oral language and vocabulary skills, decoding skills, and reading comprehension skills.

The rigorously researched and complex algorithms (3) translate data into recommended amounts for each of the 4 types of instruction designed to maximize student literacy gains,

(4) other algorithms help teachers assign students to flexible learning groups based on their instructional needs, which makes individualized instruction manageable in the classroom,

(5) the technology delivery platform at the heart of the Learning Ovations system, A2i, helps teachers plan their literacy instructional times so that all groups receive recommended amounts of instruction, and

(6) keeps track of and dynamically adjust student instruction recommendations and groups based on either (a) new assessment data and/or (b) time.

The system can (7) make recommendations about instructional materials that are appropriate for different types and levels of instruction.

Learning Ovations also provides (8) professional development materials to help teachers learn about different kinds of instruction. Finally, Learning Ovations provides all the components from data warehouse, to performance monitoring to common core compliance that fulfills all of the best district requirements to not only respond to mandates but to provide school and district-wide innovation so that all children can succeed.

(9) Learning Ovations makes its technology capabilities accessible to teachers, schools, and districts in a broad range of contexts, thus making it possible for the benefits of the A2i classroom intervention to be more broadly realized.  Through, Learning Ovations, Inc, ALL of the needed components will be in place for an empirically proven and scalable means of improving student literacy scores to be commercially available, sustainable, and implemented nationwide.