Watchful Pedagogy: The Power of Observation as a Data-Collection Tool
Teachers today are constantly engaged in conversations about data—analyzing it, using it to inform instruction, and creating strategic plans around it. There is no denying that data are important and that the place of data analysis in schools is secure for the foreseeable future. What will continue to evolve over time, however, are the ways in which teachers use and analyze data—all kinds of data—on a daily basis to meet the needs of students. While administering assessments is, of course, a valuable means of collecting data, looking beyond the paper in front of us can provide us with meaningful information as well. I found that the power of observation can be one of the greatest tools teachers have in assessing our students.
I am a kindergarten teacher in a sheltered-English-immersion classroom, which means that the majority of my students are English-language learners. During the last school year, I had a powerful learning experience about what it really means to analyze data in order to tailor instruction effectively to what students need.
My students were excited about learning—as most kindergarteners are—from the very first day of school. They loved hearing the sounds of language, singing rhyming songs, and hearing stories with new and exciting words. I watched each of them carefully, figuring out what their interests were, seeing the ways they experimented in the block corner, and watching their interactions with books. When they were ready, I broke them into small...
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