That’s my associate Erin Rooney in the above photo, circulating as students work on math problems. But why the notebook?
Is she taking attendance?
Giving students participation points?
Taking points off for mistakes or misbehavior?
None of the above. Instead, Erin is doing what all teachers should do as students engage in academic tasks: collect data to drive instruction. A lot of teachers analyze test results and other formal assessments to drive instruction. But why wait for a test? For that matter, why wait for today’s exit tickets or tonight’s homework?
Real-time data-driven instruction involves a paradigm shift for many teachers, because we need to refrain from assisting students before we assess them. We need to resist our inclination to jump in as soon as we see students raise their hands (a sign of learned helplessness for many students), make mistakes, or use inefficient approaches. We need to bite our tongues as we circulate among students, and take notes on what we see and what students say. And not just one or two students, but all students.
To free yourself up to assess students before assisting them, it’s important to select activities that students can work on productively (think productive struggle) without your help. Also be sure to establish protocols for students that cultivate self-reliance and collaboration, as per my Hierarchy of Help, where students must exhaust all resources including each other in order to “earn” the teacher’s help.
With these measures in place, you’re ready to fulfill an essential role of every teacher: collecting data. Data such as students’ misconceptions, common questions, and solution strategies. Then you can use this data to make timely, informed instructional decisions based on students’ actual needs, as math coach Audra McPhillips describes in this video:
Image provided by GECC, LLC with permission.
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