When people think of “data-driven instruction,” high-stakes assessments and data collection binders may come to mind. But what really is the purpose of data-driven instruction and how is it a valuable educational tool for everyday learning? Data-driven instruction has been an educational buzz word for quite some time and based on my experience in the classroom environment, I’d like to take a moment or two to reflect, from a teacher’s perspective, on becoming data-informed to enhance the learning experience for students, while including them in the data-driven process.
My principal didn’t just like or collect and use data…. she LOVED data! She would get giddy when scores came in and she could analyze the numbers and start setting goals for the school. We would have “data days” in which, as a staff, we would dive into the data, collaboratively make observations, and begin the action process with next steps. Having an educational leader make data analysis such a priority that she would dedicate time specifically for data-centered work was a key component to a school culture that supports data-informed instruction and teachers. When student data sparks meaningful conversations, planning instructional next-steps is enhanced. My principal loved these days, and secretly I did too, but often the feeling in the room was how do these assessment results make a difference in the daily instructional practices going on in the classroom?
Larry Ferlazzo’s Classroom Q&A (edweek.org) recently gave educational leaders a spotlight to share their thoughts and insights on the use of data to drive instruction (see the entire article here). A couple key points spoke to me, as an educator:
- The type of data that is utilized to inform instruction is crucial in a world with a high volume of data at our fingertips
- There is data everywhere and it can often times be overwhelming
- Teachers must know what their students know at any given moment and a high focus on standardized assessment data just doesn’t cut it
- Personally or in PLCs, we use formative assessment data and discuss how warmups, exit slips, unite quizzes, etc. are really the driving force behind decisions to increase learning on a daily basis
- Teachers need ways to easily collect, analyze, and act upon the results to help students move toward mastery of skills
Another aspect of data-driven instruction that I must address is the access to data. Access to data can empower and motivate. Who is getting their hands on the data? Now, my classroom experience has always been in the lower elementary setting and many would say kiddos that young just can’t handle the data. While I never liked to focus on “testing” (I’m sure that could be a whole different blog post!), I wanted students to be able to gain self-awareness of their strengths, areas for improvement, and progress. What is the point of having access to so much data to simply hoard it for our own personal or administrative use? Data is meant to be shared and we certainly shouldn’t withhold it from such a vital stakeholder as the student! Of course, this will look different in every grade/classroom. My students enjoyed graphing progress on reading levels and would ask to see their aim lines during progress monitoring. This was a time we could talk about what the student had done to improve and our plan to keep progressing with the skills. Students were excited about the growth and motivated to continue.
Being data-driven or data-informed, to me, means using valuable data to adjust my teaching to meet the needs of students. Knowing who has mastered a skill or not, knowing when to reteach, expand, or move on and with whom. Sure, we can use those data days and high stakes testing data as a starting point for planning, but we can’t forget the key aspect of being data-informed or data-driven is to empower educators to make decisions based on students’ needs and formative data. And how can we go beyond making data-informed decisions to share that data with students and work together for an enhanced learning experience?
** Now, these are thoughts from one educator, but we would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. What do you do in your school or classroom to make data-informed decisions? Do you have an easy way to collect useful data to drive your instruction? Comment and let us know!