Scaffolding group explanation and feedback with handheld technology: impact on students’ mathematics learning

  • Jeremy RoschelleEmail author
  • Ken Rafanan
  • Ruchi Bhanot
  • Gucci Estrella
  • Bill Penuel
  • Miguel Nussbaum
  • Susana Claro


Based on strong research literatures, we conjectured that social processing of feedback by cooperating in a small group setting—with social incentives to ask questions, give explanations and discuss disagreements—would increase learning. We compared group and individual feedback, using two technologies: (1) Technology-mediated, Peer-Assisted Learning (TechPALS), which uses wireless handheld technology to structure feedback in small groups as they solve fractions problems and (2) a popular desktop product, which provides feedback to individual students as they solve fractions problems individually. Three elementary schools participated in a randomized controlled experiment conducted in the 2007–2008 school year. Students in the TechPALS condition learned more than did the control group students, with effect sizes ranging from d = 0.14 to d = 0.44. Analysis of observational data confirmed that students in the TechPALS condition participated socially in questioning, explaining, and discussing disagreements, whereas students in the individual condition did not. We conclude that an integration of technology, cooperative activity designs and broader educational practices can lead to impact on students’ mathematics learning.


Handheld computers Wireless networking Mathematics Fractions Cooperative learning Group feedback Feedback 



The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education. We are grateful to the teachers, students, and school leaders who participated in this project. We also thank Hewlett-Packard for providing vital support, through its Global Philanthropy program, with a generous donation of over 100 iPAQ Pocket PCs. Eduinnova’s work to support the TechPALS project was supported by grants (CONICYT-FONDEF D04T2036 and FONDECYT 1080100) from the Chilean government.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Roschelle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ken Rafanan
    • 1
  • Ruchi Bhanot
    • 1
  • Gucci Estrella
    • 1
  • Bill Penuel
    • 1
  • Miguel Nussbaum
    • 2
  • Susana Claro
    • 2
  1. 1.SRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Pontificia Universidad CatólicaSantiagoChile

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