Making Use Of Data To Inform and Influence Your Teaching

The most important part of being a teacher is encouraging authentic learning with your students.  Over the course of a school year, you collect all sorts of valuable and usable information about your students, that can help influence and inform how you teach them.  In the following post, we will look at some of the most common ways you can collect data about your students and how you can use it to help and even improve your ability to teach them.


Within The Classroom Environment

Low-stakes formative assessments are one of the most useful and important ways for collecting data about your students.  Whether this is in the form of thumbs up/thumbs down, brief quizzes or exit slips – these are all great ways to find out exactly where your students are in their education and where they should be going.

Being able to observe them in a classroom environment by walking around while they do their work or sit alongside them when they are working on group activities, is a great way to collect information about them.  they won’t feel self-conscious or stop what they are doing just because you are walking around, watching them.  And you can find out various things such as whether or not they are understanding the content of the lesson, if they are interacting and working well with their fellow students and if they are struggling with specific parts of the coursework or a particular activity. The information you can learn from just observing your students can be used to change the structure or pace of the class to benefit the students who have issues.  Exams, essays and projects are valuable when it comes to measuring the growth of the whole class or individuals in particular.  For instance, if a large percentage of your class are scoring poorly on an important assessment, it could indicate that you need to alter your teaching methods or the way you structure your lesson plan.


Using Student’s Files

Although it can be difficult to find enough spare time to read the files in your student’s records, it is worth the effort.  There is a lot of valuable information that can be found there.  If there are students in your class that have question marks over them, whether it is their attendance percentage or their ability; you may find the answers in their student records.  For example, a student that appears to be absent school more than he or she is in your class could be homeless or students that are noted as being gifted being placed into a general level class.

You can also spot grade changes, often particularly tell and dramatic, from looking at their cumulative files.  For instance, if before a particular student moved into 7th or 8th grade was getting straight As then suddenly gets a lot of Fs or even Cs, you could approach them and ask them about it.  It may be that they will offer up a reasonable explanation if there was a death in the family or their living arrangements changed this would certainly impact their ability to perform at school.

It gives you the opportunity to be supportive and empathic and you may be able to establish achievable goals or even refer them to counselling to help.

Even if you have been making good use of the different forms of data collecting you can participate in while teaching; the above has hopefully shown that there may still be further ways to do it.