“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” By Anatole France

I decided to take the next several weeks to write about using data to drive instruction in the classroom as this is a topic I am passionate about. I decided to break it down into three parts: Using Formal Assessments, Informal Assessments and Pre Assessments. I decide to break it down this way as I think getting teachers to use data is important but it is most important in the classroom for formal assessment and it is the easiest place to start using data to drive your instruction.

Using data to drive instruction is something I think all teachers have heard of but don’t necessarily do in the classroom. When I talk with teachers about why they don’t use classroom data to drive their instruction, I usually get two responses: I don’t have time and/or I don’t know how.

For those of you that say you don’t have time, make time. We need to be doing what is best for our students and using data to drive instruction is a best practice. This is something that teachers should spend time on. It eventually doesn’t take as much time and if you have help of a facilitator or a grade level team to help divide up the work.

If you are one to say, I don’t know how; start with formal assessments. When creating an end of the unit assessment, make objective/strand boxes in the corners of your test based on your states essential standards or the Common Core. Label each question with an objective/standard, so when you are grading the tests you can see which objectives students have Mastered
(M) Partial Mastered (PM) or Not Mastered (NM). Here is an example for NC Essential Standards in Science- 4th grade

__/_3  4.L.1.1 (M, PM, NM)__/_4  4.L.1.2 (M, PM, NM)__/_2  4.L.1.3 (M, PM, NM)__/_2  4.L.1.4 (M, PM, NM)For Teachers Use




Looking at this box filled with data, you can see there were three questions on standard 4.L.1.1. If a student got all 3/3 questions on this standard right they would show mastery, if they got 2/3 then they would show partial mastery and 1/3 or 0/3 not mastered. The teacher can then use this data to create their re-teach groups for the following week. The students would have differentiated instruction based on their needs.

Yes, it takes some time to create common assessments that have objective boxes and the questions labeled to standards/objectives
but over time, you will only need to tweak the assessments as the Common Core and Essential standards will stay the same.

How can you use other measures of formal assessment to drive instruction that are not tests? Easy, use projects and portfolios ideas but base them around state objectives, essential standards or Common Core. This way you can still see what the students have mastered or not mastered. You can put the objectives/strands box next to the expectations on the project you designed and/or you can include them on rubrics. After the student turns in the project you can see what they have mastered or not mastered the same way you do with common assessments.

Next week, I will go into how to use data to drive instruction for informal assessments in your classroom. Please share in the comment section if you, as an educator, have other ways that you use formal common assessment to drive your classrooms instruction.


Comments on: "Using Data to Drive Instruction in the Classroom: Part 1" (7)

  1. Dear Jill–
    I very much enjoyed your blog post about “using data to drive classroom instruction.” Thanks for sharing your insights and passions about this subject. As a former classroom teacher (BTW-I grew up in N. Syracuse, NY — my first teaching job was in Lyncourt!), and currently as a facilitator for TERC’s Using Data process, I find myself in step with your thinking. Regularly integrating formal and informal assessments into the instructional planning process is a must. It’s not adding more to the plate — it IS the plate…understanding the impact of the teaching process on student learning and using that information to plan the necessary next steps, not only to teach, but to engage kids in the learning.

    These days there is so much negative emphasis on testing, and I understand the rub when I see test scores being used to punish teachers and categorize kids. But using data and testing are not the same thing. Data comes in many shapes and forms, well beyond test results and grades. Teachers have the opportunity to use this valuable resource to guide a teaching and learning approach that can ignite learning for all students. As you note–it just takes time and know-how.

    I plan to follow your blog series (and post a link to it on the TERC Using Data For Meaningful Change blog http://usingdata.wordpress.com). Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping others understand a process for using data that can profoundly impact student achievement.
    Mary Anne Mather
    TERC Using Data Senior Facilitator

    • Mary Anne,
      Thank you for you reading my blog and pingbacking it!
      ~ Jill

    • julie doust said:

      Mary Anne thank you for responding with support for data as a driving force with planning instruction in the classroom. I am also from Syracuse, NY. Bishop Ludden graduate. I have been a 5th grade teacher for the last 8 years and have an opportunity to come out of the classroom as a Title ! Learning Strategies next year with a goal on helping teachers to see the value of constant analysis of daily/weekly data collection. It will be a daunting task to help teachers to simplify the collection of the material, show them how to quickly assess it and then turn-around and immediately use it to differentiate their instruction. Knowing and having my own passion for data will certainly help with next year’s task. Thank you again for your feedback. – Juile Doust

  2. […] very much enjoyed Part I of Jill Thompson’s blog series about “Using Data to Drive Instruction in the Classroom.” According to her bio, Jill is an elementary math and science […]

  3. When I taught high school physics I would occasionally use a strategy where I would give the end of unit assessment test first! I recall doing that for before my unit on Newton’s Three Laws thinking that several of my students may already have mastered a number of those concepts either in 5th grade or middle school. The deal was such that if a student scored 90 or above on the “pre-test” they earned an “A” for the unit as their “test grade”. They were still required to complete classwork, but they had choices as to what types of activities they would like to do to enrich and enhance their understanding of Newton’s Laws. Not too surprising, about 20% of my students earned an A – test grade before I “taught” anything about Newton’s Three Laws! This allow me additional time to work with students during the 2-week unit of study who have partially or not yet mastered Newton’s Laws.

  4. […] how to use the teacher objective boxes to guide them. (For more info about objective boxes see Using Data to Dive Instruction: Part 1) If the student did not master an objective on the assessment, the student’s goal that week was […]

  5. […] action plan template. The student would design their action plan based on their assessment data. (See previous blog post on how I use student data to drive their learning) Through student led conferencing, the teacher would be able to scaffold and monitor the action […]

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