Data should shape our practice to strengthen learning. Using student data as feedback for our teaching is not an optional extra, but fundamental to practice.
Like most aspects of teaching, data-informed practice is a skill that teachers will refine throughout their careers. As with differentiation, data-informed practice is not a single approach but rather a collection of strategies. If we’re going to eat this elephant one bite at a time, we can take the first bite by selecting one strategy to implement, with the goal of adding strategies until we have a rounded approach to data-informed practice.
Some of you will want to get started by getting an overview of data-informed practice and some of you will just want to take the first step. Knock yourselves out:
Getting the big picture:
This overview from The Education Hub: How to use data for teaching as inquiry is a comprehensive, easy to understand summary of data and how teachers can use it in their classrooms. This report is focused on teacher inquiry – but remember all teaching is inquiry!
For the first step: (and the next and the next … )
Begin by recognising the range of data that is available to you. Think about how you will store student data so that it is easily accessible and usable day-to-day. Whatever system you create, it has to fit you and remember it is a work in progress – don’t get precious about how it looks!
- How you gather formative assessment data throughout your lessons – think thumbs up/thumbs down, exit slips, quick quizzes, hold up your answer on the mini-whiteboard, highlight where you have …
- Observation – what are you noticing about your students as you move around the room and interact with them?
- No doubt you are already doing both these things, even if it is in a haphazard way. To make quick formative assessments and observations useful in your data-informed practice you need a quick and systematic way of recording it. This is so you can see the patterns as they develop and adapt teaching accordingly.
- Create a notebook (physical or digital) with the class roll and editable/expandable space to quickly record data. A clipboard and post-it notes can be helpful as you move about. Combined with whatever colour coding system works for you, this is a great running record of students’ learning.
- Record students’ summative assessment results and your feedback on their big pieces of work in such a way that you can see the patterns developing. Think of this as creating portfolios of work – so that you are looking for patterns in student learning rather than viewing each assessment in isolation.
- Find ways to regularly access student voice – think google forms, polls in your google meets, exit slips (again). Don’t wait until the end of a unit or the year – hearing what is working (or not) for students should be a regular feature of your practice. Be open to positive and negative feedback.
- Look carefully at the transition data that you receive about each student. Use it to help you anticipate and plan for each student – making your classroom a hospitable place for everyone. And remember – part of this spirit of hospitality is being careful to ensure that last year’s data is productively shaping your teaching practice, not creating pre-judgements on students. (That’s why this wasn’t the first bullet point.)
- In that spirit, view all student data as feedback on your teaching. Be curious about both the patterns and anomalies you see in your data. Find a way to track these that works for you (I love a highlighter) and then think carefully about what you will do to address these. What has really worked that you want to grow in your practice? What isn’t working? What’s going on for specific students? Who needs support / where?
Check out this inspiring Bright Spots report over at The Education Hub. It describes It Worked! – a data driven professional development initiative undertaken by Gisborne schools.