Welcome to your definitive answer to the question: "What research informed the educational design of Boom Learning?"


Your lead designers and co-founders at Boom Learning are neurolearning and cognitive science nerds. So buckle up, we've got the details for you on what went into the design of the Boom Learning platform.


We Started With the Cognitive Science of Learning, Backed by Studies and and Research

Co-founder and education design leader Mary Oemig had experience teaching in and running an individualized pre-K to 1st program for twice exceptional children. Her program implemented two key strategies that benefit all students

  • Explicit executive function and self-regulation training3 AND
  • Response to Intervention methodologies9

When it came time to prioritize Boom Learning's student and teacher features, Mary brought that history with her to the product design. The core elements of the design implement the following key cognitive learning concepts from education and neuroscience research.

  • Self-regulation (executive function) is an essential skill for efficient learners to master3
  • Data can inform teacher judgment but cannot replace it because data can only highlight areas of potential concern; teacher observation and experience is necessary to devise interventions that are student appropriate;4
  • Overlearning ("practice makes permanent") is essential to creating proficient learners; it is not enough to do well on a test, we want multi-year retention of core skills5,6.

Research Shows Teacher Judgment Is Key to Personalized Learning

Teaching requires core skills such as empathy, generosity, and curiosity. Personalized learning is meeting a student where he or she is at. It is not a product, it is not a curriculum, it is a set of strategies and tactics. Data can help teachers find nuggets they might not have spotted and interventions they may not have known about, but only a teacher has the judgment and experience to decided how to intervene, and whether an intervention is even needed.9


In our design, we implemented features and reports that would support the application of Response to Intervention strategies and tactics as this is a proven method for intervention.8 Our goal was to apply these methodologies within a model of differentiated instruction that would address the range of asynchronous development10.


Boom Learning's flexible creation and progress reporting platform and the flexible curriculum nuggets found in the Boom Learning Store are designed to support teachers in finding nuggets of information about student performance that can teachers can transform into actionable, personalized learning plans. This is based on the understanding that human brains are better than machines at finding patterns in ambiguous data15.


With Boom Learning reports teachers can see how long a student took to answer a question, enabling them to spot students who may have fluency, processing speed, or visual processing challenges before they fall behind.9 The data can’t tell a teacher the source of the problem, but after a teacher assigns a variety of decks, data can help narrow down where a student needs more repetitions. Our tools can also help teachers identify students learning at an accelerated pace who need greater depth or more challenging material10. The combination of robust reporting and instant feedback makes early intervention seamless.


This democratizes the practice of Response to Intervention, making it available to every classroom and every teacher, not only to special educators and psychologists. Our reports provide all teachers with key data points needed for intervention analysis — data on speed of response and performance over multiple attempts. 4,9


By combining speed of response data with performance over time, our reports allow teachers to identify:


  • Patterns of guessing for a concept (rapid response and mixed performance)
  • Patterns of being in the zone of proximal development (mix of response times and correct response rate between 80% and 95%)3
  • Patterns of mastery (rapid response and consistent correct performance)11
  • Patterns of solidified mastery (mastery pattern maintained over extending intervals)5,6,11
  • Patterns of poor fit to readiness (slow response times and majority incorrect responses)
  • Patterns of knowledge gaps and content misunderstandings (consistent wrong answers on a specific knowledge element)


Studies demonstrate that working to a mastery level of 100% is more likely to lead to skill maintenance over time.11 With the ability to see reports for performance over time, teachers can decide which log to maintain against which to measure skills maintenance at a future time. 

Provide Incentives to Learn Through Play

For our reports to be meaningful, we built a platform that allows teachers and publishers to create dynamic assessments masquerading as mastery practice. From the student’s perspective, Boom Cards resemble fun, fast-paced games.10 From the curriculum designer and the teacher’s perspective, the platform is much more sophisticated. 


We gamify the student learning experience to encourage mastery, struggle and repetition. We did not gamify as part of a fad. We specifically designed our gamification elements to create proficient learners.


Authors can choose between a mode that samples mastery in varied size chunks over time (the curriculum-based assessment model) or a mode that enables scaffolding with built-in remediation (a self-operating intervention with measurement). Both modes provide immediate feedback on the correct response to the student.4,9


Our robust platform allows teachers a wide field of innovation, with teachers independently discovering ways to use Boom Cards to develop virtual escape rooms, hidden object games, feed the monster/animal games, choice board games, and complex combinations of lessons, practice, and assessment for all grades and stages. Customer feedback informs our continuous design, ensuring we create the tools that teachers and students need.


Students earn gems for mastering content. A gem is earned when a student correctly answers a question with no wrong answers. If they answered incorrectly on a previous try, they may still earn the gem for a card by getting it right on a subsequent play. When the number of gems earned matches the number of cards, a student has mastered the content for the deck. 


Coins are rewards for persistence and struggle. More coins are awarded for harder questions. Students get bonus coins by logging in frequently and for extra lives left at the end of the deck.13


Pulses (the lightning bolt) reward overlearning behaviors (the concept that learning past mastery leads to automaticity). A pulse is earned each time a question is answered correctly, even if it has been answered correctly before. 6


Building Learners' Self-Regulation and Student Accountability

The brain is "organized to make predictions about the future on the basis of incoming sensory information and long-term knowledge, to monitor the success of those predictions, and to adjust the knowledge of the world accordingly in short-and long-term memory systems."14 By designing our product to provide students with instant, consistent, and repeatable feedback about their learning progress, we empower learners to monitor the development of their learning over time.2

 

Our play engine democratizes the student experience by providing instant feedback on correct and incorrect answers and permitting students to “remember” specific questions to review with a teacher later.12 Our student-side platform further equalizes the student experience by giving students a visual record of progress over time and access to the detailed record of past attempts with fluency speeds. Students can be taught to self-monitor their growth over time and to self-identify a need for intervention. This awareness is critical to developing a growth mindset.7 


The design of Boom Learning incorporates elements to foster student accountability and self-regulation. These include instant feedback so students can determine on their own their need for support, reports delivered directly to the student with detailed insight, and a Notebook to "save" items for review with the teacher. Students should be taught to use the student accountability elements of Boom Learning to build self-regulation skills.


We chose not to include a mode that does peer comparisons, preferring to focus on growth rather than competition as the model for our core engine.7,13 

 

As discussed above, Boom Cards game elements reward mastery, persistence, and overlearning to grow self-management and related executive functions. Students can choose which games to play and when, as well as how long to play a particular game during any play session. We enable teachers to shorten the duration of an attempt for students with shorter attention spans by limiting the number of cards shown. We further allow teachers to suppress content that has not yet been taught by hiding specific cards from the “deck”.

 

When student choice is combined with teacher choice about which activities to assign, the number of cards expected per play, and the feedback data on progress, the engine can be used to support the development of executive function skills, such as goal setting and attentional control, simultaneous with content learning.1


Studies Show Proficient Learners Have the Advantage

Proficiency training is important for everyone. Adult learners must revive atrophied proficiencies or develop them for the first time. Middle school and high school students often need to remove barriers to tackling advanced materials. Upper elementary students must solidify math facts and word attack skills. Primary students need to learn, learn, learn!


Proficient learners have several advantages over non-proficient learners.

  1. Higher endurance
  2. Less easily distracted
  3. More brainpower to apply to new tasks
  4. Improved retention


These advantages are particularly apparent when students face tasks for which the proficient skill or knowledge is a component, such as

  • The ability to read aloud without conscious attention to adding expression
  • The ability to recall and apply a math fact without hesitation when performing advanced operations
  • The ability to drive from home to school without having to think about each turn and stop

A proficient learner is able to respond correctly, quickly and without hesitation. At that point, the concept has been so deeply ingrained that only a wee bit of brainpower is needed to retrieve the knowledge. That means more oomph to learn new things! Boom Learning's reports were designed to help teachers assess when learners have achieved proficiency because they show both answer history and answer speed.


Proficiency is obtained through overlearning/overtraining. Sustained, ongoing practice of materials can get dull. Learners need to practice a skill when it is taught, and at regular intervals. Offering the same lesson in novel variations, with a range of themes and answer types, builds proficiency without turning students away from learning. With Boom Cards decks, teachers can make or find resources ranging in skill level from simple multiple choice answers, to drag and drop, to multiple response, to fill-in-the-blank, allowing them to gradually increase the challenge and vary the presentation. Our platform makes it easy to clone materials and create variation while training the same skill. Our platform was designed to make it easy for you to implement modern brain science in how they deploy teacher created materials.


Our Research-Based Roadmap for Continuous Improvement

Collaborating with our users for continuous improvement has been part of our model from the beginning. We have a robust research-based roadmap of items to build. Even so, our teacher-customers and school administrators provide crucial input on how we build and what we build. We engage in multiple ways with our users, ranging from “wishlist” surveys to open-ended questions in dedicated Facebook groups to webinars and online meetings that allow us to discuss the details of a need.

 

Our Future Plans

We will be doing formal effectiveness research and we keep up-to-date on education research and best practices (remember we are brain science nerds). As we learn, we share our research knowledge with our teacher-users to inform their creations. This information is communicated through emails, blog posts, and live webinars. You can find citations to research conducted using our platform here.


1.  Anderson, P. (2002). Assessment and development of Executive Function (EF) during childhood. Child Neuropsychology, 8(2), 71–82.


2. Baliram, N & Ellis, A.K. (2019) The impact of metacognative practice and teacher feedback on academic achievement in mathematics. School Science and Mathematics, 119(2), 94-104.


3. Bodrova, E., & Leong, D.J. (2007). Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education, 2nd ed. Pearson.


4. Brown-Chidsey, R., & Steege, M. W. (2010). Response to intervention: Principles and strategies for effective practice. Guilford.


5.  Dougherty, K. M. and Johnston, J. M. (1996). Overlearning, Fluency, and Automaticity. The Behavior Analyst, 19, 289-292.


6. Driskell, J. E., Willis, R. P., & Copper, C. (1992). Effect of overlearning on retention. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(5), 615–622.


7. Elliot, A. J., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Handbook of Competence and Motivation. The Guilford Press. 


8. Fuchs, D., Mock, D., Morgan, P. L., & Young, C. L. (2003). Responsiveness-to-intervention: Definitions, evidence, and implications for the learning disabilities construct. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 18(3), 157–171.


9. Johnson, K. & Street, E. M. (2013) Response to Intervention and Precision Teaching: Creating Synergy in the Classroom, 1st Ed. The Guildford Press.


10.  Neihart, M. (2008). Identifying and providing services to twice-exceptional children. In S. I. Pfeiffer (Ed.), Handbook of giftedness in children: Psychoeducational theory, research, and best practices. Springer.


11.  Pitts, L & Hoerger, M. L (2021) Mastery criteria and the maintenance of skills in children with developmental disabilities. Behavioral Interventions. 36(2), 522-531.


12. Schroder, H.S, Fisher, M.E., Lin, Y, Lo, S. L., Danovitch, J.H. & Moser, J.S (2017). Neural evidence for enhance attention to mistakes among school-aged children with a growth mindset. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 42-50.


13. Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302–314. 


14. Trainor, L. J. (2012). Predictive information processing is a fundamental learning mechanism present in early development: Evidence from infants. International Journal of Psychophysiology, (2), 256–258.


15. University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine. "The brain at work: Spotting half-hidden objects: Different brain areas interact to recognize partially covered shapes, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2017.