Date of Award



© 2022 Charles C. Swan

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Debra Welkley

Second Advisor

Jennifer Scott

Third Advisor

Brenda Gammon


This quantitative study examined the academic impact of two adaptive learning technology math programs (Espark and iXL) alongside the social validity of teachers in a rural western Maine school district who used the program in their classrooms. Using Hattie’s Visible Learning Theory (2008) as the theoretical framework, the study tested two different hypotheses. The first hypothesis stated that both Espark and iXL would have an effect size of .40 or greater when the pre and post tests were compared. The study used the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) assessment for its pre and post assessment because it is a nationally normed assessment that was already in use in this school district. Data for the study was taken from 24 grade five students, 29 grade seven students and 17 grade eight students for a total of 70 student data points. Student data was only taken from students who took both the pre and the post assessment, were enrolled in one of the two participating schools, and used either Espark (grade 5) or iXL (grades 7 & 8) for forty-five minutes or more a week. The study confirmed the first hypothesis that both adaptive learning programs met the .40 Hattie yearly growth threshold, with Espark having an effect size of .439 and iXL an effect size of .532. These findings should be accepted with caution given several factors including: low participant numbers, discrepancy between the effect size calculations and the NWEA expected growth measurements, and the varying design use of the programs in the three different grade levels.

The second hypothesis for this quantitative study stated that there would be a positive mean score of greater than 3 on a study-specific social validity survey given to five participants who teach math in grades 5, 7 and 8 in the site school district. The study asked four math teachers to provide their perception of the adaptive program that they were using in their classroom and rate the program in terms of student motivation, impact on student math standards, impact on the NWEA, ease of implementation, and a number of other factors in the ten-question survey.

The Espark responders had an overall score of 3.32 (average of all 10 questions given by all three responders) and the iXL responders (one seventh/eight grade and one grade 6 math teacher) had an overall mean score of 4.20. These mean scores confirmed the initial hypothesis. However, caution is noted when accepting these results for the following reasons: there were only five participants for this part of the study, the survey was created specifically for the study and therefore has not been tested in other settings, and there was a methodology change that cause the study to have to use seventh and eighth grade responders instead of the grade 6 math teacher only which was part of the original design.


Ed.D. Dissertation