Rationale & evidence for Lectica’s nonprofit mission



  1. rewarding educational practices that reinforce students’ inborn passion for learning;
  2. equipping students with skills and dispositions for negotiating the complexities and challenges of today’s world — skills for thinking, learning, evaluating, deciding, acting, communicating, interacting, and creating;
  3. documenting the development of these skills [6]; and
  4. providing students, teachers, and parents with feedback and resources that support optimal development.

Problem & solution


  • Most students spend too much of their time learning facts, procedures, rules, and vocabulary, and too little of their time building the kind of knowledge required for thinking, learning, evaluating, deciding, acting, communicating, interacting, and creating [2].
  • Today’s high stakes standardized tests, which were developed to improve public education by holding educators accountable, are more right answer focused than skill focused. They tend to encourage teaching that prepares students to provide enough right answers [2].
  • Too great a focus on right answers produces shallow learning — learning that doesn’t go deep enough to become “sticky” or useable [7].
  • There is no parallel incentive — no fully scalable technology — that systematically encourages students to learn in ways that support deep, highly networked, embodied [8], useable knowledge — what we call robust learning [9].
  • Robust learning not only results in useable knowledge, but also provides the foundation for a lifetime of learning and development — the kind of learning that allows people to grow into complex thinkers equipped to grapple effectively with 21st century [7,9] challenges — complex issues that lack simple “right answers.”
  • Lectica plans to transform educational practice by rewarding robust learning — at scale. Just as conventional high-stakes testing has produced an increased focus on pedagogy that rewards shallow learning, the right kind of learning tools can catalyze the widespread adoption of educational practices that support robust learning [2,3]. References


  • DiscoTests help to ensure that what a student learns today is learned deeply and richly enough to be useable and enduring. This kind of learning, which we call robust learning, also provides a foundation for future learning that, over time:
  • supports increasingly complex, sophisticated ways of understanding our world; and
  • builds skills for putting those ways of understanding to work [4,7,9,10].
  • DiscoTests are richly diagnostic, providing information about students’ learning edges — what they’re poised to benefit most from learning next [11].
  • They are radically formative [5]:
  • They provide immediate feedback, triggering the dopamine-opioid cycle that reinforces our inborn motivation to learn [5,11,12].
  • They optimize learning by supporting Virtuous Cycles of Learning — cycles of goal setting, information gathering, application, and evaluation [11,13].
  • They are all calibrated to a single theoretically derived learning metric — making it possible to track growth on a non-arbitrary scale [14,24]. All students, regardless of their rates of growth, can see themselves as learners [5,6,14].
  • Each DiscoTest is designed for multiple grades, often grades 4–12.
  • The results of research we conduct to build each DiscoTest is stored in a knowledge base (developmental dictionary) we call the Lectical Dictionary [15]. It is used to trace learning trajectories, build learning resources, and score assessments.
  • All DiscoTests are free to individual K-12 educators everywhere.


  1. Testing drives instruction. Tests that measure robust learning reward teachers for fostering robust learning [2,5].
  2. We have authored peer-reviewed articles about several validation studies [16].
  3. Higher scores on our learning scale predict greater literacy [21].
  4. Virtuous Cycles of Learning (VCoLs) support robust learning [7]. There is growing evidence that the more students use VCoL, the more effectively they grow.
  • On average, high school seniors in programs that do the best job supporting robust learning are about 3 years ahead (on our learning scale [14]) of seniors in schools that do an average job — after taking SES into account [9].
  • Even in adult contexts, educational programs that incorporate more VCoLs produce more learning than programs incorporating fewer VCoLs [16].
  1. Robust learning matters.
  • Students in programs that do the best job supporting robust learning are more likely to continue developing during adulthood [9].
  • Adults who score higher on our learning scale are more likely to be promoted into higher paying or more sophisticated jobs [18].
  1. The DiscoTest Initiative is about much more than testing — it’s about a new way of understanding and supporting learning. What we are learning has:
  • allowed us to build highly effective learning tools;
  • led us to the mighty micro-VCoL;
  • made it possible to create the world’s first developmental dictionary and electronic developmental scoring system [15];
  • provided us with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the shape of development;
  • allowed us to rapidly document, in detail, how students build specific meanings over time;
  • led us to the development of Skill Maps, which we use to identify and translate broad skills into multiple “micro-skills,” each of which can be practiced VCoL-style in real-time;
  • provided us with the knowledge and evidence required to teach people of all ages how to learn optimally through a course called ViP; and
  • has even allowed us to create an improved spell checker.


  1. help solve a problem teachers are already aware of;
  2. resonate with their explicit and tacit knowledge of learning;
  3. can be fit into the standards relevant to their context;
  4. free up time, so they can have more direct contact with students; and
  5. make a real, observable difference.
ViP info | ViP rationale



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