Collecting and Using Data to Inform Planning and Instruction
Theresa London Cooper
Research tells us that the teacher is the single most important factor in student learning. Teachers who support student learning establish and maintain particular professional behaviors, including collecting and using various forms of informal and formal data.
Some teachers use spiraled index cards which can be purchased at a good stationery or office supply store. Others use a clipboard with sheets of paper. The most important thing to remember is to establish a consistent and on-going routine to document observations and note conclusions drawn regarding data. Although you may focus on two or three students, that doesn't mean that you cannot jot down an important observation you notice on a student outside that group. You never know when a student will exhibit something worth noting, so remain open to the unexpected.
Good teachers collect data on their students throughout the day. There are many ways to collect pertinent information. For example, you may decide to use a notebook and mailing labels and designate a page for each student. Focus on two or three students daily and decide what you will observe. Date the label and jot down the observation. At the end of the day, transfer the labels to the appropriate student page. By the end of the month, you will have a wealth of information on each student. You can repeat the process each month.
Assessing is an on-going process; informal and formal assessment should work together to create a comprehensive profile on each student. Therefore, it is critical that teachers exercise keen observation, analysis, and documentation skills. As teachers we assess our students’ emotional, social, and academic status. Take a moment to jot down the various forms of informal (teacher observations, running records) and formal (Terra Nova, ELA) types of data you have that will support planning, instruction and learning.
Collecting data is not enough, however; we must also analyze it and use it for effective planning and differentiated instruction to meet students’ needs. As you think about whole group instruction, small-group instruction, and one-to-one conferencing, use your notes to plan and teach.
Collecting and analyzing data helped me formulate teacher comments for report cards; summarize major strengths, challenges, and interests of my students; choose appropriate trade books for my classroom library; develop strategies to help students focus on classroom activities; build a learning community; and hold conferences with my administration. I cannot stress the benefits of having varied information on your students. The process is essential to teaching and learning.
How are you collecting data? How do you use that data?
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See also Theresa's article: "Assessment: Getting To Know Them"