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Using Data in the Math Classroom

July 17, 2015


Teacher Tips for Turning Data into Insights

D-A-T-A, data, data, data! You cannot turn a corner these days without the word data being part of the conversation among teachers. With so many forms of data available, it is hard to determine which types are most useful for finding insights wile using data in the classroom. Moreover, looking at a single type of data is not going to give you a complete picture of a student—combining data from various sources can. In this post, I explain the types data teachers should consider and how the role of each stakeholder affects the use and success of data-driven math instruction in the classroom.

Taking the Data Dive
There are many forms of data available, and choosing data that best fits your school’s vision can be challenging. However, if chosen correctly, data can help address areas of weakness and strengths to better provide a clearer picture of how to drive instruction to help students’ needs at an individual level. Having timely access to data is critical for incorporating learning solutions into the classroom routine. Below are a few options that allow teachers to create more meaningful lessons for students.

  • Interactive online or Blended Learning programs: These track student data and produce real-time reports. These reports assist teachers in creating differentiated groups within the classroom and contribute to lesson planning.
  • Data dashboards: These present data insights gathered over time and allows teachers to track student growth and proficiency—and take instructional action.
  • Benchmarks and other formative assessments: These help teachers assess where students stand within a current unit or set of standards.

School Support Systems
Establishing a data-driven culture for student learning begins with strong administrative support. Since each school has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, it is important for the school’s administration to create a supportive environment where educator input helps determine the school’s greatest needs.

  • Know the plan: Once needs have been determined, the administrative team can then provide a clear vision for teachers, be supportive of collaboration time, and review data both horizontally and vertically. By taking on the role of coach and guide, administrators can provide constructive feedback as well as showcase success stories.
  • Organize a data team: Another key to success is to organize a team consisting of members who can and want to analyze data. The team should contain a variety of educators from different disciplines and grade levels. Having time to collaborate as a team is important and team members need to establish a consistent meeting time and place. This will allow them the opportunity to analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and monitor outcomes.


The Teacher’s Role
Being part of a team, such as a professional learning community (PLC), provides a support system among teachers when analyzing data. A successful PLC is one where teachers set expectations, create an environment where all teachers can have a voice, analyze common data, and share best practices. Having the same assessments across disciplines allows teachers to pinpoint weakness against standards, but will also allow for discussions and coaching.

The weekly assessments should be 5–10 questions per assessment and can be administered in a variety of ways to fit varied teaching styles:

  • Paper and pencil
  • Classroom response systems (clickers)
  • Educational classroom websites such as Edmodo

The Student’s Role
Involving students in the data process takes buy-in on the part of the student, and this can happen in several ways:

  • Share results with students and parents on a regular basis.
  • Have students track their progress. Teaching students to follow their own progress makes the data more relevant and encourages students to take ownership of their performance—some teachers use a folder to collate test scores for students, while other use digital tools.
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) can be used to enhance blended learning. By creating a student-centered learning environment, students are placed in control of their learning and can learn to work independently, at their own pace.

Analyzing data to drive instruction sets up classrooms where students can be successful, as instruction is geared toward student needs, not the other way around. Schools need support and vision, and this can come from peers, data coaches, data teams, and/or the administration. Regardless of an individual educator’s comfort level with data, everyone’s participation makes for a stronger school, as shown by the data. Want more on data in the classroom? Catch up on Dr. Gregory Firn’s latest blog series that takes a deeper dive into creating a data-driven culture.



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