Gathering and analyzing data to guide instructional decisions is a crucial part of providing highly effective educational experiences for our students. However, the process can be daunting and stressful for educators. It’s not that teachers don’t know how to look at data or how to use it effectively. The issue really lies in using the data collaboratively as a school to address the learning needs of all students, creating a global support system from the bottom up. In order to begin this collaborative approach to data analysis, effective organizational procedures must be put in to place. Boudett and Murname (2013) suggest beginning the process with setting clear objectives, creating a system in which all voices are heard, and taking an inquiry stance to create an open dialogue environment. The idea is not to create blame, but to create questions. To do this effectively, careful consideration must be used in both the selection of and display methods for the data. The goal is to create conversation among the teachers. What patterns of student thinking can be identified? What can be done to correct patterns of errors? How can classroom instruction be enhanced or improved to address these areas? It’s not about what the teachers CAN’T do, but rather what they CAN do. Focus should not center on lack of time, resources, or support, but rather move towards what can be done with what is available and what is reasonable. The smallest changes can have great impact. Developing a school action plan as a team creates buy-in on everyone’s part. Every person in a school must be on the same page when it comes to areas of need and what defines quality instruction. The school must regularly revisit the action plan developed, assessing and acting on needed changes as growth or challenges occur. In a sense, the cycle of data analysis at the school level is identical to the cycle in the classroom. Analyze the data, identify patterns and areas for growth, develop a lesson or plan to address these needs, re-assess and repeat. The difference is, if a school can act as a whole unit in the process, the effects become global, increasing every student’s chance for success, not just the ones within our own classroom walls.
Boudett, K. P., City, E. A., & Murname, R. J. (2013). Data Wise: A step–by–step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.