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New Ways of Measuring Learning

Educators at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will lead a global consortium funded by Hewlett-Packard's HP Catalyst Initiative to develop new technologies for measuring students' competency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The six members of the consortium include institutions of higher learning in France, Hong Kong, Russia, South Africa and the United States, as well as a New Jersey high school.

The Measuring Learning Consortium will be led by Candace Thille, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon, and CMU's Ananda Gunawardena, associate teaching professor in university's Computer Science Department. The consortium is one of five supported by HP in 2010 as part of its Catalyst Initiative. Collectively, they aim to transform classic STEM education into learning experiences that better meet the needs of today's students.

"Our consortium will develop new technology-based methods for measuring students' understanding of STEM coursework," Gunawardena said. "We expect to follow the lead of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, which has demonstrated that computer-based tutoring programs can provide a detailed assessment of a student's strengths and weaknesses." The Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center is operated jointly by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh with support from the National Science Foundation.

"Ultimately, we want to develop a new breed of technology-enabled embedded assessments that measure STEM competencies that the international community values. Many of the competencies that we believe are important are difficult, if not impossible, to appraise through conventional methods," Thille said.

The Measuring Learning Consortium includes the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado; Ecole Centrale de Lyon in Ecully, France; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; the National Research Irkutsk State Technical University in Irkutsk, Russia; North-West University in Gauteng, South Africa; and the Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey.

HP is providing both technology and financial support for the consortium members with more than $6 million in funding this year for the overall HP Catalyst Initiative. Other consortia supported by HP are investigating online STEM education, developing new models of teacher preparation, enabling collaborative problem-solving using grid computing and creating new models of student-driven learning including "learning how to learn." Thirty-five organizations in 11 countries are represented among the five consortia.

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