What is Data-Driven Instruction?
A data-driven teacher is tactical; she has a strategic rationale for every procedure, lesson, and subsequent assignment or assessment. A data-driven teacher understands that data drives every aspect of instruction. It isn’t mechanical or manipulative; it is the way to get at the hear of student misunderstandings and plan reteaches. It is a constant cycle of data collection (formative assessments), analysis and planning, testing what students know (summative assessments), and tracking progress against goals.
Data-driven instruction is most effective when it is done consistently, like most aspects of teaching. Data collection is the corollary to data analysis; one cannot exist without the other. Data collection takes on the from or formative and summative assessments.
Formative Assessments are making a resurgence in the education world; I’m a firm believer that effective teaching starts by knowing what your students have and have not mastered. Every year, I’m surprised by the foundational skills my students struggle with and the rigorous standards they excel in. This awareness informs my unit plans and ensures content is tailored to the needs of every one of my students.
- Make it Fast: Don’t spend the whole class period on it. Make sure you have a question for every standard and you’ve varied the rigor of your questions so you can clearly identify misunderstandings.
- Motivate: If it doesn’t count, a middle schooler isn’t inclined to care. Create a classroom culture where formative assessments are the norm and motivate students to show their best by explaining how you use the data.
- Grade and Go: Don’t create an assessment that is going to take hours to grade. Use a tool like GradeCam to expedite multiple-choice grading. If you are giving a writing-based assessment, look for one trait in each student’s writing.
- Useless without a Unit Plan: If you don’t use the data, don’t give a formative assessment. Plan to spend 5-7 hours grading, analyzing, and planning your unit. Don’t plan until you’ve put the data in a tracker and prioritized skills.
Summative Assessments are your opportunity to check in with students and measure growth from the beginning to the end of a unit. They work in tandem with the formative assessment. Measuring student growth can only happen if you have 2 data points. The summative assessment lets you see growth for you high flyers and struggling students.
- Align Standards: Make sure you’ve included all standards and you will be able to easily compare data to the formative assessment.
- Motivate: Encourage students by getting them excited about their growth!
Develop and Deploy a Data Tracker
Tracking data is most effective in Excel, which makes most ELA teachers cringe. I’ve found in the last few years that a tracker set up well sets you up for success throughout the year. I’ve also found it’s a great tool to hold myself accountable and a great central repository for progress monitoring.
This Excel Tracker was built specifically for TNReady Middle School ELA. The image above shows a portion of the tracker where you log mastery for formative and summative assessments. The tracker has embedded formulas for ALL calculations, automatically color codes based on mastery, and includes a summary page for all standards that auto-populates from the data you entered.
Features of the Tracker
- All TNReady Standards
- Category Column
- % Assessed and # of Items on the Test
- Standard Code
- Calculations for Formative Assessment Mastery
- Calculations for Summative Assessment Mastery
- Growth from Formative and Summative Assessments
- Overview Sheet that Calculates Averages for ALL Categories of Standards
See Data in Action
Conditional Formatting (aka Automatic Color Coding)
Data you enter into mastery cells automatically changes to green, yellow, or red based on mastery. This makes it easy for you to see when you revisit your tracker what students know and what they are struggling with.
Sort Columns and Analyze Categories of Standards + Prominence on TNReady
Every standard also includes the category it comes from and the percent assessed on TNReady. This is a timesaver to help you prioritize standards and remember that mastery is also relative to the frequency of the standard on the test.
There is also space in the tracker for you to insert your own standards if you add anything outside the scope of TNReady standards or if you want to break out the skills required in more complex standards.
Data Snapshot: This is my favorite aspect of the tracker and it is an incredibly useful tool on a daily basis. This summary page comes before the tracker, and auto-populates data from the tracker so you can see mastery averages for each category of standards. See the infographic below for key features.
You can start using data to drive instruction today; a data tracker is the key tool in your arsenal of remediating student misunderstandings. This year-long tracker is an efficient, easy, and game changing tool for TN teachers.