Data Isn’t Always Numbers

The word “data” naturally calls to mind lists of numbers to most people – to teachers this usually means tracking students’ scores on assessments. This can be an extremely informative tool for teachers, but data doesn’t always have to mean numbers.

Collecting observational data in the classroom can be as simple as observing (and recording) ongoing behaviors of students and using that information to make instructional decisions

Example Instructional Decisio15046542586_6209a96b6e_o.jpgn Based on Observational Data

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of making instructional decision based on non-numeric observational data is crafting an intentional seating arrangement for students. The research of Spencer Kagan shows that student achievement goes up when they are seated in groups containing students of varying ability levels. This does not naturally occur when students are allowed to choose their own seats. A well-crafted seating arrangement made using observational data by the teacher is one of the true art forms of education and can change the entire instructional atmosphere in a classroom.

This is one of many examples of how teachers can (and do) use observational data to improve their classrooms. If numbers aren’t your thing, don’t worry, data isn’t always numbers.

Photo credit: Photo Credit: privatetutoring001 via Compfight cc

SMART Goals in the Classroom

Why create goals? Goals provide the focus and guidance to move forward, even when it’s tempting to get lost in the day to day.

SMART is a acronym developed in the 1980s in the business word to help people create and fulfill their goals. Mike Schmoker, author of The Key to Continuous School Improvement says, “Clear, measurable goals are the center to the mystery of a school’s success, mediocrity, or failure.” Teachers can write student-centered SMART goals to focus their work during a data cycle, or more teacher-centered SMART goals to help measure their own growth in the classroom.

Ask yourself these questions when writing a SMART goal:

S: Specific and Strategic (What exactly do I want to measure and why?)

M: Measurable (How am I going to measure it?)

A: Action Oriented/Attainable (Is this a goal I can reasonably meet with the resources I have?)

R: Relevant (Will meeting this goal improve my students’ learning?)

T: Timed/Tracked (When will I achieve this goal?)

Here is an example teacher-centered SMART goal for the classroom:

GOAL: By the end of 3rd quarter I will double the amount of feedback I give my students by writing in their class notebooks every Friday instead of every other (changing to once a week from once every two weeks). This will provide my students with twice the amount of opportunities to see my thinking about their work and make changes in their thinking.

S: amount of feedback given to students

M: “changing to once a week from once every two weeks”

A: the notebooks are already a resource in the classroom

R: “provide my students with twice the amount of opportunities to see my thinking about their work and make changes in their thinking”

T: “By the end of 3rd quarter”

Research Says: Tracking Data Increases Achievement

Most teachers are part of a data team that works together to gather and analyze student data, but you don’t necessarily have to be working as part of a data team for your students to benefit from tracking achievement data. Research shows that teachers who create graphic representations of students performance, like charts or graphs, see a 26% gain in student achievement on the chosen objectives over time.

In addition, when students track their OWN progress on a specific objective over time, research shows a 32% gain in achievement.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

To get the highest return on the investment of taking time to track student data, researchers have found that there are 3 important things to keep in mind:

1) It works best to have the students track their progress on a single objective. Trying to track multiple objectives at the same time can get overwhelming and confusing, especially for students and teachers new to the process.

2) Students and teachers must have a clear and consistent rubric to successfully track achievement data.

3) It is best to use many types of assessments while tracking data, not the same one over and over. Written questions are only 1 type of assessment. Discussions, observations, and demonstrations can often be assessed using the same rubric as a written test.

For more information on the research behind tracking students data, read: Marzano, Robert. “The Art and Science of Teaching / When Students Track Their Progress.” Educational Leadership 67.4 (2010): 86-87. ASCD. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

This is a repost from October 4, 2014.

Making Pretests Matter

Most of us have given a pretest and then realized upon looking at the results that no student was able to answer any of the questions correctly. This can be a frustrating experience for both students and teachers and feel like wasted time. I hear teachers say, “I don’t need to give a pretest to know that none of my students know how to do this. I haven’t taught it yet.”

The most valuable data comes from pretests that stretch both up and down.

The most valuable data comes from pretests that stretch both up and down.

But… this feeling is not the fault of the concept of pretesting itself, it is often the fault of pretests that are narrowly constructed.

The best pretests stretch both up and down, meaning that there are questions on the test that, when answered correctly, not only show if the student understands the grade-level concepts, but also questions that show if the student remembers the concepts from the previous year (stretching down). These questions can make the students feel more successful when taking the pretest, and can also show the teacher which students best remember the previous concepts.

It is also a good idea to have a few questions that “stretch up” and touch on concepts that might not be part of the true curriculum until the next unit (or school year, depending on the concept).

Broadening the scope of the types of questions on a pretest can help to produce data that teachers can use to better design their instruction and  group students, and can make pretesting feel more like the truly valuable strategy that it is.

Google Classroom for the 2015-16 School Year

I have great news for those SJSD teachers who used Google Classroom last year… You no longer need to use your @students.sjsd.k12.mo.us email account to use Google Classroom. Hooray! That was a 1-year work around that has been fixed. You can set up a Google Classroom with your regular @sjsd.k12.mo.us account, and students can join it with their @students.sjsd.k12.mo.us account seamlessly.

Also, those who used Google Classroom last year might be wondering how to delete old accounts. It is a 2-step process. First your have to archive the account, then you can delete it:

ARCHIVING A GOOGLE CLASSROOM
Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 4.05.22 PM

DELETING AN ARCHIVED GOOGLE CLASSROOM
Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 4.05.33 PM

Let me know if you have any other Google Classroom questions! I would love to work with you one-on-one, in teams, or in content.

Graphic Displays of Student Progress Increase Student Achievement

Most teachers are part of a data team that works together to gather and analyze student data, but you don’t necessarily have to be working as part of a data team for your students to benefit from tracking achievement data. Research shows that teachers who create graphic representations of students performance, like charts or graphs, see a 26% gain in student achievement on the chosen objectives over time.

In addition, when students track their OWN progress on a specific objective over time, research shows a 32% gain in achievement.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

There are many ways to graphically track individual student data. This graph is just one example.

To get the highest return on the investment of taking time to track student data, researchers have found that there are 3 important things to keep in mind:

1) It works best to have the students track their progress on a single objective. Trying to track multiple objectives at the same time can get overwhelming and confusing, especially for students and teachers new to the process.

2) Students and teachers must have a clear and consistent rubric to successfully track achievement data.

3) It is best to use many types of assessments while tracking data, not the same one over and over. Written questions are only 1 type of assessment. Discussions, observations, and demonstrations can often be assessed using the same rubric as a written test.

For more information on the research behind tracking students data, read: Marzano, Robert. “The Art and Science of Teaching / When Students Track Their Progress.” Educational Leadership 67.4 (2010): 86-87. ASCD. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.