“A good teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” Thomas Carruthers

My last three posts have all been about using data to drive instruction. I believe that not only should the teachers use data to drive instruction but that students should use data to gage their learning as well. I consider one of the most important things a teacher can teach a student is to take control of their own learning.

How do you let students use data to drive their own learning? You teach them to track their own data and have conversations about it through mini-lessons and conferences.

The mini-lessons should be about goal setting and why it is important. I taught the students how to make SMART goals.  I also taught the students 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 to work on the objective through homework or contracts in workshop. Everything I used had objectives on it so the students were well aware what the objective numbers meant. For example, if a student did Not Master (NM) objective 2.05 then the student’s responsibility was to work on objective 2.05. If they were working on a reading response, I had at least 3 question prompts per objective that they could use for a response that matched the objective they needed to work on using their own novel. I also had objectives on individual contracts. I did this for math and science as well. If the student needed to work on a certain objective skill, they would pick up the contract for workshop or do the homework assigned to the objective skill they needed to practice. The students were all engaged which made workshop run like clockwork. This style also helped with my differentiation because all the students were working on what they needed as individuals.

Many teachers have conference data logs for writing, where the teacher writes down where the student is in their writing process and what their next steps are going to be etc. I kept conference notebooks for every subject, for every student. When the student and I conferenced, they knew I was keeping notes on them and they helped me write the notes in them. It was no secret and shouldn’t.

What went into these conference notes? The conversations the student and I had along with their goal! I would first model goal setting the first quarter by looking at the student’s data and discussing with them what goal I thought they should work on and why. The second quarter, we would discuss the data and choose the goal together. By the third and fourth quarter, the students would come to me ready for their conference with their goal. I did this for every subject, every week.

The next question most of you are probably asking right now is HOW?

I would set up a schedule of 7 students a day (I had 32 students in my class) and during workshop I would meet with them. It took me about 20 mins, as each conference was only a few minutes, which still left me time to pull my small reteach groups; as my workshop was typically 40-45 minutes long. The students loved having these conferences (and so did I) because it also gave me time to really get to know them as individual learners. The students like having a say in what they are learning and want to learn plus it teaches them responsibility.

Many teachers often say to me, ‘This is all such a great idea and I am glad it worked for you but it wouldn’t work in my classroom.’ I often respond with; why? The first thing usually they say is I don’t have time. My answer to this is make time as it saves time in the long run. This is what learning is all about, you will literally watch your students begin to love learning because they are apart of it. Start small and work on goal setting in one subject and then move into others. I didn’t keep these long professional notes in my conference binders. I wrote the date and a few sentences about what we discussed and the student’s goal and I did all this during the conference which took no extra time.

The second excuse I get is, ‘My student’s are too young.’ I have seen Kindergarten teachers do goal setting. Yes, maybe it is not as detailed as above but you can tier this style to make it work for the grade level you teach. Every grade can at least do individual conferences and I believe grades 3 and up can handle understand what skills they need to work on.

Students using data to drive their own learning is a 21st century skill student’s need. It teaches them to be responsibly for themselves and gives them confidence in their learning. It also teaches the students that each learner is not the same and that is okay. Try it in your classroom, let the students take educational ownership and watch what unfolds!

Please share in the comment section if you, as an educator, have other ways that you have students using data to drive their own learning. I love learning from others!

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