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Best Practices for Using Data in the Classroom

Thursday, October 15, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

Today’s teachers have a wealth of data at their disposal thanks to our current assessment culture and online programs. Some of the most valuable data are often gathered by the teachers themselves during the course of a lesson or unit. All forms of student data are useful when you keep these four best practices in mind.

1.      Make sure that your lesson and assessment goals are aligned

Sometimes, it is tempting to give assessments as a simple spot check to see who was paying attention in class on a given day. However, this is not the most effective use of assessments. In order to gain meaningful data, it is critical to make sure that any assessment you administer aligns with the central purpose of the lesson it follows. This is the best way to ensure that your students are gaining the knowledge they need within the context of relevant standards. It also will provide you with the most meaningful information to drive future instruction and determine your most (or least) effective teaching practices.

2.      Be transparent about assessment goals and scales

The point of assessments isn’t to trip up students with “gotcha” questions. They should know exactly how they are being (or will be) assessed throughout the course of a lesson. In fact, they should be able to tell you how successful they will be before you even administer an assessment.

Let’s use a golf analogy. There is a standard called par. Everyone knows this going into a round. During the course of a round, most golfers know their standing in relation to par. Nothing comes as a surprise, especially when they find out how they did at the end of the round. Each lesson should have a “par,” and students should be able to keep track of their learning in relation to it at any point in the “round.”

3.      Use your data to make a plan

Many teachers get upset when assessments reveal that students have not learned as much as expected. It’s easy to feel frustrated at the prospect of reteaching information or intimidated by the situation of simply needing to move on and risk students falling behind.

However, the point of gathering data is to formulate a course of action. Every assessment, both formal and informal, should be given with the possibility of having to reinforce learning. In fact, view it as an opportunity for 100% student success. This article from ASCD goes into much more depth about corrective instruction and giving students a second chance at success.

4.      Talk to your students about their data

Students aren’t ignorant. They know what their scores have been on the big tests. Yet, assessment scores remain a taboo topic in some schools and classrooms.

Be forthright and take the opportunity to sit students down, study their recent data with them, and get their opinions on how recent assessments have gone. Discuss what they found challenging, as well as areas where they excelled. Continue this dialogue throughout the year—these conversations can be just as valuable as the data.

Want to learn more about Edmentum’s solutions for data-driven instruction? Check out Edmentum Sensei, our intuitive and interactive personal data dashboard, included with Edmentum Assessments, Plato Courseware, and Study Island subscriptions!

Click here to register for our upcoming live webinar ‘How to Make Sense of Your Data, Use it, and Drive Instruction’ for more best practices in understanding and using assessment data!