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Educators know that any single piece of information about a student could be influenced by a variety of factors. But, in the busy rush of teaching, we don’t always take the time to look at multiple data points to make decisions about student learning.

Using multiple measures to evaluate student learning helps minimize the risk of reading too much into any single piece of information.

Data triangulation—the process of using at least three data points to inform educational decision making—is especially helpful when interpreting assessment results. Triangulation allows teachers to use different sources of information to create a more complete picture of student learning. When all the data points lead to similar conclusions about a student’s needs, we can be more confident in the assessment and the decisions we make to address those needs.

Selecting Data Sources

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of data out there about students. It can be overwhelming. To make the best use of the data, we have to know three things:

  • what data we actually have
  • what it measures
  • how it can be used

Key sources of information that can be used include:

  • Classroom-based
    Teacher observations, student classwork and student participation, and behavioral measures.
  • Formative assessment
    Quizzes, tests and student projects.
  • Summative assessment
    Portfolios of student work, end-of-unit tests and end-of-year tests.
  • Skills diagnostics and universal screeners
    Brief curriculum-based assessments of targeted skills.