The Ultimate Guide to Data Collection in the Classroom
For some teachers, data collection is a source of frustration and annoyance. That doesn’t need to be the case – data collection can be an insightful and fun journey to improving as an educator. Here is everything you need to know to become the effective data collector your students need:
Before you can begin collecting any data, you need to know exactly what you are trying to learn from the data that will be gathered. This begins with an intense dissection or “unpacking” of the standards. Break the standards down into nouns, verbs, and big ideas. This will allow you to identify exactly what the students need to know, be able to do, and the larger skill(s) the standard contributes to.
Based on your dissection, you will need to develop a pre-assessment. Identify the final assessments you will use and a few formative assessments that will reveal progress before the final assessment. Create a reliable and valid rubric that will allow for consistent grading across all assessments. These can be informal or formal assessments, but they must measure the standard and be consistent. If you aren’t doing so already, consider working with your grade-level partners to develop assessments. This will not only create less work for all of the teachers, but your school will have the benefit of a large amount of data on the growth and progress of your students.
Instruction and Assessment Practice
During instruction, be sure that you are providing modeling and practice that will prepare the students to take the final assessment. This doesn’t mean to engage in the practice of “teaching to the test,” but rather being sure that students are prepared to demonstrate the new knowledge they have gained. If you have designed your assessments properly, by teaching this way, you will also ensure that your instruction is aligned to the standard you are targeting.
Data Review and Collection
Data collection does NOT have to be done entirely by the teacher. Teach students to take agency over their progress and learning by creating student data binders to record their own data. You can print out simple tables with the week or standard at the top, and have students fill in their score accordingly. There are plenty of free and inexpensive templates for data binders as well if you don’t feel up to creating your own. For your own records, create an Excel sheet that will automatically create and update bar charts of each student’s progress through a standard. Print out whole class data (never post individual data in the classroom) and refer to it often. Explain the chart to students and celebrate when the data shows the class is doing well.
Using Data for Instruction
Never collect data just for the sake of collecting data or appeasing school administration. Data collection takes effort, so it would be foolish not to use it. Leverage the data to improve your instruction and teach with precision. Place students performing at similar levels in small groups and have them work together, or provide small group instruction for students who didn’t perform well on a formative assessment. Through the data, you may be able to identify exceptional or gifted students or students that need evaluation for SPED services. Data can be a powerful tool when requesting additional resources for a student. If you notice that the class as a whole is struggling with a standard or concept, it could be a signal that you need to try a different strategy during instruction.
Data collection is an essential part of an effective classroom. While the road to data collection may seem long and tedious, teachers will benefit from a deep exploration of the standards they teach, and from the rich data they gather. By following this guide and researching other data collection strategies, teachers can transform the way they approach instruction and provide even more opportunities for their students’ success.