I hear administrators tell teachers that they should be using data to drive their instruction. I’m not sure if they understand that teachers have to be taught to track and use data. It just doesn’t happen by osmosis. I didn’t realize it until recently that analyzing and interpreting data is not easy for a whole lot of teachers.
There are many different data sources of that you can track. Schools are data rich, meaning that teachers have an abundance of data can be used to help adjust your instruction. So, before data can be tracked you have to know what data you are going to use to drive your instruction.
In my classroom I use Plickers and my Ticket out the Door to track my students during my instruction. As a rule I don’t test my students on a skill until I feel like they are ready. I know you’re probably thinking how do you get grades? Well, I test my students a week after a skill has been taught. I have found that if a skill is introduced and tested in the same week my struggling students would always fail because they didn’t have enough time to practice.
Everything that you give your students shouldn’t always be about getting a grade. My Ticket Out Door assessments are formative assessments and are not graded but they are tracked using Plickers. This formative assessment gives me quantitative and qualitative data that I need to help me adjust my instruction or give guidance to specific students during instruction.
I like using Plickers because it gives me and the students immediate feedback. I don’t usually collect data from the students with Plickers until I see that most of the students have mastered the skill or are approaching mastery. If the students have not mastered the skill I add them to my small group instruction list.
Small Group Instruction
Small group instruction is a controversial topic, especially among upper elementary and middle school teachers. More often than not teachers are force to implement small group instruction without adequate training or support. In my opinion, when small group instruction is based on data it can be a very effective instructional tool.
Tier 2 of The Response to Intervention model is when classroom teachers should implement small group instruction. Before assigning students to small group instruction qualitative and quantitative data should have been collected so that you can justify the need for small group instruction. The data should include but is not limited to:
- formative assessment data
- anecdotal notes describing student effort/work habits
- teacher administered tests
- student work samples
I do not normally include tests that are in standardized testing format to make instructional decisions. Don’t get me wrong standardized test data is important; however these test follow a particular format and don’t always provide an accurate picture of the students’ mastery of a concept. Tracking data should be about collecting the right kind of data to help improve student achievement and not collecting data for sake of having data.
Tracking Data with Google Docs
I’m not a fan of using paper and pencil to track my students’ data because I believe that there are more efficient ways to keep track of student data. Google Docs are great way to track student your students’ data. Most teachers don’t realize that interventions should follow the diagnose, reteach, reassess, and track cycle. When I begin small group for a particular concept or skill, I usually provide intervention on a skill for no more than 2 weeks. During small group instruction I use anecdotal notes to track the students’ misconceptions. After the intervention is complete I assess the students and track their progress using a Google Drive template. If the students do not show progress the cycle starts over.
Tracking student data should never be labor intensive. It should be similar to a doctor’s diagnosis of a patient. They diagnose, prescribe a treatment, and then reassess. This is the same way that teachers should collect and track students’ data in order to improve content mastery.