What can we as educators do to help ourselves and other stakeholders make assessment data actionable? From my perspective, there are four things we can do to become more data-oriented:
- Be intentional when it comes to using data
- Embed data into everything we do
- Model the use of data whenever (and wherever) it is feasible
- Remember that assessment is just one aspect of the complete learning picture
And there may be a fifth: remember that there is a face (or multiple faces) behind every piece of data.
Let’s elaborate for just a bit on these 5 intentional practices.
- Be intentional in using data – Do you set goals for the year? If so, how did you use data to help set those goals? What kind of data do you use every day, both implicitly and explicitly?
- Embed the data – Not to be confused with “use the Force.” However, almost as powerful. Think about it for a minute. When do you have opportunities in your daily work or conversation (personal or professional) to include a “data byte”? Talking about how you make decisions and sharing stats from the weather, sports, etc., are a couple of ways to work data into what you do every day.
- Model the use – Setting goals based on quantitative data is one quick and easy way to model data use. Classroom management strategies, like grouping students based on assessment data, offer another way to model data use with your colleagues. How else can you – in your PLCs, planning meetings, etc. – incorporate data or outcomes that you can measure?
- Assessment is just one aspect – We need to keep in mind there are at least 4 categories or types of data upon which we can take action: demographic, perception, student learning (achievement), and school process (programs/processes). Often using multiple data points (triangulating) is helpful in guiding us toward the action we both need and want to take.
- Faces – When I was asked by the superintendent to be the district’s assessment coordinator, I had just been hired the week before to mentor new teachers. My response to his questions was, “Did you know I was hired last week to mentor?” His response to me was, yes, and that he thought I was one person who would remember that there were “faces behind the data.” I have to admit that statement stuck with me. It surfaced every time I created a data display, shared data with others and pondered the meanings and impacts of the data I reviewed.