By Phil Grimaldi, senior efficacy and research scientist at Khan Academy.
Teachers are busy trying to keep up with the ever-growing number of educational tech tools that promise to simplify their lives. It can be quite challenging for them to determine which tools actually deliver on their promises.
Khan Academy has dozens of research studies showing that our free, world-class platform drives learning outcomes. But how can teachers use Khan Academy in the most efficacious way? We wanted to take away the daunting task of figuring out how to best use Khan Academy with your class. Our recent research study found three ways for you to use Khan Academy to boost your students’ learning. Ready to try these Khan Academy teaching strategies? Let’s go!
1. Embrace Course Mastery Goals (CMGs)
Teachers can use Khan Academy in three different ways: use our Assignment feature to assign specific videos and exercises to students, use our Course Mastery Goal (CMG) feature (e.g., have students complete 80% of the course), or use a combo of assignments and course mastery goals. Course mastery goals are a unique feature of Khan Academy, allowing teachers the ability to ensure their students are reaching mastery on all the skills in a course.
In general, teachers who set CMGs saw their students level up more skills and perform better on an external assessment compared to teachers who exclusively relied on the assignment feature or didn’t use either of the features. Most importantly, CMGs required significantly less time investment from teachers as compared to other ways of using Khan Academy in the classroom. So, teachers should make CMGs an integral part of their teaching strategy for better academic performance with less time.
2. Use Supplemental Assignments Sparingly
While using CMGs alone can be very effective, supplemental assignments can also provide benefits. Among the teachers who used both CMG and Assignments in their classrooms, two things stood out to us.
First, in many cases, especially when teachers assigned a lot of things, very few students completed those assignments. Second, teachers often assigned the same things that students were already supposed to do per the CMG. This practice did not improve student outcomes and was likely a confusing experience for everyone involved. However, when teachers used assignments sparingly—and in conjunction with CMGs—they saw higher completion rates and better outcomes.
So, teachers should use supplemental assignments to address content and needs not covered by the CMGs. For example, a teacher who sets a CMG for our 5th-grade math course could create supplemental assignments from the 4th-grade course to target specific learning gaps. Similarly, supplemental assignments from the 6th grade could be assigned to advanced students. Both of these examples would be more effective than creating additional 5th-grade assignments already covered by the CMG. Course mastery goals guide the students through the grade-level content with little teacher involvement, while supplemental assignments are useful for filling knowledge gaps and pushing strong students even further.
3. Maintain Consistency
Consistency is a key determinant of student success on Khan Academy. Teachers who maintained a regular usage pattern saw better outcomes both on-platform (e.g., skills level-ups) and on an external assessment (i.e., MAP Growth). This doesn’t necessarily mean daily use. Instead, establish a recurring weekly usage pattern and aim to minimize gap weeks for an effective learning routine.
In essence, Khan Academy elevates the learning experience in classrooms. Teachers who prioritize Course Mastery Goals, use supplemental assignments judiciously, and maintain consistent platform usage can set up their students for success. Teachers can start with these three research-backed Khan Academy teaching strategies today and watch their students excel