Teaching Opinion

Data Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word

By Starr Sackstein — October 16, 2018 3 min read
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It’s all about perspective.

Too often when we hear the word “data” we assume that the person speaking is talking solely about summative test results and the plethora of possibilities for learning we can take away from those numbers.

But this is NOT the only kind of data that exists, it is just the kind that gets the brunt of our ire and frustration as it is a solitary indicator of teaching and learning.

And that’s what I struggle with. Test data is one single area for determining what kids know and can do and there are often many challenges with these standardized tests that skew the data on top of that.

However, most classroom teachers and leaders are gathering data like masterful musicians in their classrooms every day and just don’t realize that is what they are doing.

Data can be all of the following, but not limited to:

  • Notes gathered while taking the status of the class
  • How long it took students to complete a task
  • The results of that task
  • Student questions
  • Entrance tickets, exit tickets
  • Reflective writing
  • Self and peer assessment and feedback
  • One to one conversations that happen over the course of the period
  • Google form answers
  • Classroom discussion
  • Class trends or individual student learning growth and challenges
  • Google Classroom conversations
  • Twitter Chats

Like testing, data can be both formative and summative, but it should always be informing the instruction. It isn’t enough to gather data or review test results and do any kind of data analysis on skills or content learning if we aren’t going to use the data we explore to help student learning improve.

So what can we do to make data more meaningful?

  • Always make sure to track the data in some way, making an analysis of what is happening in your classes a daily practice.
  • At the end of each period or day, depending on what age group you work with, review lesson plans, making notations on what was accomplished and note what students know and can do and how you know.
  • Memorialize feedback conversations. If you have students mature enough to maintain this information, make it their responsibility. For example, if I’m walking around checking in with groups working on a project, there are a couple of things that can happen. They can have a specific question I’m going to answer to them alone and they will be responsible for the direct instruction that comes from that question or I may decide to stop class for a second and share that information with everyone. It is important to make a note of this adjustment as it may be necessary to teach the skill again in a different way or provide a resource that may be helpful later.
  • Be mindful of your wait time when opening up the floor to student questions and exploration of their learning, always making a note of who is first to share and the quality of the share as well as who habitually remains quiet even though there is a solid answer sitting on his/her sheet.
  • Adjust the pacing of a lesson.
  • Provide alternative kinds of learning opportunities that play to different kinds of intelligence. Get students moving and allow them to show what they know in ways that make sense to them
  • Give students choice and voice in their learning to support deepening of understanding as well as engagement.

Ultimately, everything we do in our classrooms can be used as data and we can make it as meaningful as we want it to be or we can let opportunities go by.

Every teacher wants his/her students to be successful and chances are, each teacher is doing so much already with the information he or she has to make that happen. As team leaders, we want to help our teachers leverage the information they have to create the most targeted and effective instruction possible, not just to do better on tests, but to be better learners throughout their lives.

What kinds of data are you collecting every day that helps to inform your instruction and provide the best, individualized instruction possible? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.