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 Decision 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.