Worth Buzzing About

Education is a field of ever-changing acronyms and buzz words, in and out of the hive like so many bees. In some capacity most of them make at least a little bit of sense, even if it is the new word for something we stopped talking about a decade ago. One promise our politicians and bureaucratic offices can keep: the buzz words won’t stop buzzing.

Data Driven
Perhaps the most common, worthwhile buzz word—the queen bee?—in our profession is “data-driven instruction.” To say that our instruction is driven by data seems a mistake. Many factors shape our instruction; no single driver–and certainly not a set of data–both paces and steers our teaching; however, using data to inform the decisions we make about braking, accelerating, throwing the car into reverse, or pulling a U-turn has advantages.

The question is, what constitutes useful data in your class?

Self-Assessment Polls
I don’t think test and quiz grades are the answer here, though they are part of it. I teach a night class at Pitt Community College, and final paper grades provide an abundance of information about what my students have learned. Unfortunately, delaying data analysis until Sunday afternoon, when I usually grade papers, always means extra work for me in the long run. Most of the data I use in this class is informal and immediate. For example, before, or even in the middle, of class I like to poll students (I do it on Edmodo.com):

A. I’ve got it. Move on.
B.  Almost there.
C. I don’t get it.

If a majority is ready to move on, we keep rolling. I leave conference/writing time at the end of class to target specific students’ needs. If enough students report confusion, we back up and start answering questions to find out what they don’t comprehend.  You can’t keep driving when you can’t even find where you are on the map.

Benchmarks (because one buzz word begets another)
Our English I students have been using data in a different way to guide their instruction this year. They benchmark student and class performance using CPS clickers and released EOCs each six weeks. They also use Study Island data and classwork to help them determine the needs of their students. One English I teacher told me last week, “So what my data is telling me is that, basically, my students need help with reading comprehension.” It was no major breakthrough—he probably could have guessed as much in January—but it was enough to urge him off his defined course and onto a new one, one that includes more time and strategies for comprehending informational texts. Another teacher created partially individualized Study Island activities to intervene where students were weakest.

Algebra II and civics and economics teachers are beginning to use similar data-driven strategies, but few teachers have access to released EOCs and prepared Study Island question banks to facilitate this strategy. So what strategies do non-EOC teachers use for gathering and reacting to data? Let’s find out from the teachers themselves.

Panera Drawing (Now THAT’S a buzz word):

Tell us how you use data-driven instruction. Submit a comment (click “comments” at the top of the blog) answering three questions to enter a drawing for a free sandwich at Panera!

-What data do you collect in your classes?
-How do you collect it?
-How do you use that data to guide instruction?

Submit your response by Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Winners will be announced Friday morning.

2 Responses to “Worth Buzzing About”

  1. KCarlson says:

    We use our online catalog system, Destiny, to help drive our instructional choices, we look at circulation data, in terms of when books are checked out and what they are checking out– that helps us know what we need to make sure we have plenty of resources that are needed. We keep track of requests to be able to add to areas that need more selection. With Edmodo and surveymonkey I can envision having more data sources to better align our collection with the needs of our staff and students.

  2. Sarah Brafford says:

    Data is collected in our Language! classes through content mastery and benchmark tests that are provided with the Language! program. Coach Vaughan assimulates this information into a V-port file that is then reviewed by the county. This information is used to measure growth of our struggling readers. The tests measure fluency, spelling, and comprehension. This information helps the county determine if the program is benefitting students and should continue to be funded. The test scores give teachers an understanding of how successful the students have been with the curriculum. Baseline tests are given before the students enter the program to determine which level they should begin with. Content mastery tests are given every 5th lesson. Summative tests are given at the end of each level, i.e. at the end of Book A, Book C, etc. As you can see, this program is extremely data driven.