My Epiphany: Data Discussions Are Effective

Giving students a voice in conversations about data fosters engagement and leads to positive outcomes.

Topics: Assessment and Evaluation

Are these data really effective for teachers to drive their instruction with? Should we take the time to share the data with our students? These are questions that as a classroom teacher and an aspiring administrator that I have asked myself. I always wondered if students would understand what I am explaining to them and whether they actually care about their data.

School Improvement

But I know data are important for various reasons. One reason is for school improvement. Administrators need to make sure data is continuous in a school setting to help improve student learning. Through the use of data, there should be decision-making and planning that help better the culture, vision, and mission statement of the school. Teachers need to collaborate with one another on ways to implement data into their lessons. Data should not be taught in isolation; therefore, it is important for teachers to work together to plan lessons that are driven by data and have data conversations imbedded throughout the lessons.

Daily Instruction

These data are not just about test scores and who scores the highest. Data should be part of a teacher’s daily instruction for student ownership and growth of their learning. Students need to visually see their growth and challenges.

Currently, teaching first graders, I learned that they love to graph their own data. I began the year with allowing my students to graph their beginning of the year scores on a program used at my school. I really did not think much of it other than that. I did not believe the kids would actually buy into talking to me about their scores and ways to improve. I was wrong: The kids loved it!

They graphed the data in individual student folders for their own knowledge. I had the students tell me one goal they wanted to master by the mid-year assessment they were going to take. Every student came up with their own individual goal that they wanted to accomplish. I began individual data conversations with my students throughout the semester about their mid-year goal to help with student ownership.

At the mid-year assessment, I was curious of how the data conversations would affect my students. The impact on my students was positive: They understood why they were taking the assessments, they were excited because they wanted to meet their goals, and they genuinely wanted to excel and meet their goals. This was the moment that I knew data conversations were important to have with students.

Formative and Summative Assessments

Starting second semester, I wanted to do more than just talk with my kids; I wanted to use data conversations with their formative and summative assessments. Throughout the second semester, I have discussed with my kids individually after their formative or summative tests the categories they are challenged by, the categories they excel in, and the categories they have grown the most in. After discussing these assessments, they are able to tell me daily or weekly goals they want to achieve. Each goal is unique because it is set by the student and no one else. Individual data conversations weekly have helped my students grow not only on benchmark assessments, but also with grade-level standards as well.

Data conversations are not just done to help a teacher have the highest scores. Data conversations should be done to help students take ownership of their own learning and assist the instructor with ways to improve their teaching. We want students to own their learning and set individual goals in their lives. Students need to understand about the standards just as much as the teachers do. The students need to know what the expectations are.

Not only have I found that data conversations are important, but I also have found that the data should drive my instruction. Data should help me determine which students need further instruction on certain standards. Additionally, the data should help inform me which students need to have enrichment with certain standards. Data are important when it comes to instruction for your students.

Throughout the use of data in my classroom, I understand why it is of value for an administrator to explain to their teachers the use of data. Administrators do not need to be focused on data just to get the best test scores, but rather because it helps the students take ownership of their own learning and it provides the best instruction for each individual child. Data are about more than the performance of a school. I had an epiphany that data really does help the students individually. It helps them understand what they are learning, how they are performing, and to take responsibility for their learning.

Christina Reynolds is a first-grade teacher at Sudduth Elementary in Starkville, Mississippi.