Getting started with data: Part One of the “Next Steps in Instructional Coaching” series
Yes, I know. Data, data, data.
Some people love data; most people – not so much. But that’s ok.
With a purposeful approach to looking at data, even the most reluctant dataphobe will find some value and walk away with something useful to think about.
One important note: Students are not numbers.
Looking at data, while a necessary part of the job, is not more important than getting to know your students as people and learners.
That being said, looking at data might illuminate some patterns!
Here are four questions to help you get started in collecting data:
1. Why are you collecting data?
If you’re collecting data to pat yourself on the back or to guilt teachers into something, don’t collect data. There’s no purpose.
Some good reasons to look at data:
To see what worked
To see what didn’t work
To think about next steps
That’s about it. When you look at data, you want to dig deep enough to figure out why the data says what it does. Thinking about your reason for collecting data n the first place can help you figure out the next big question.
2. What data do you plan to collect?
The world’s your oyster! Data can be anything: guided reading levels, overall reading assessment scores, performance on individual standards, percentage of students successful on any given task or assessment, or records pulled from online programs such as iStation, Education Galaxy, or the other 8 million options out there.
In order to figure out what to collect, go back to your reason for collecting data. If your purpose is to figure out what adjustments to make to guided reading, try collecting guided reading data such as reading levels and running record scores.
If your purpose is to adjust reading lessons, you might collect performance percentages on individual standards from a recent assessment. That will help you reflect on how you taught those specific standards and you can decide if adjustments are needed.
This bar graph reflects how students performed on the main standards assessed in this unit, in English and in Spanish (that’s why there are two colors)
3. Who is doing the collecting?
Who will be responsible for actually collecting and representing the data? Will your teachers have to do it (can be more effective and realistic in some situations) or will you create it for them? Do you have any software (such as Eduphoria: Aware) that can automatize this for you, or will you need to do it by hand?
But after an assessment, I used our software to collect and organize the data by grade level, teacher, and individual student. Much of this was automated and so the process was reasonable for me to complete in a short time frame.
4. How will you present the data?
There are so many different ways to present the data you’ve collected. In order to actually be useful, consider a few things:
Keep it simple. If it’s too busy, the eye and the brain fail to communicate effectively. If your teachers go cross-eyed when they look at your charts, they’re probably not having the best conversations. You might have to make some decisions about what elements are essential to look at and what you can do without.
Color helps. To a degree. If you color-code a few basic elements, that can help the data stand out in your view. However, if you have a 17-point color system, that’s probably a little too overwhelming. Stick to 3-4 colors.
Format matters. Table? Bar graph? Pie? Again, choose the most simple and visual way to convey the information. Do you want a pie graph for every single standard of a 22 standard test? Nope. Do you want a table with 36 columns and 18 rows? Nope. Convey the least information necessary with the most detail possible. And keep the font big enough to read without a microscope.
Labels are necessary. If I can see that on my standard 4.2B, 48% of my students did well, and the remainder struggled, it’s probably important to know what 4.2B actually represents. So label anything that’s not clear. It’ll help when you facilitate your data PLCs.
This chart on the left, for example, included all the data required for data review. But it is incredibly overwhelming! It’s so much information that it’s hard to even notice anything. It has data for each teacher on a variety of skills and strategies, and in some cases (the pink numbers) in more than one language. That’s a lot to take in!
This chart represents less information, but it’s a little more readable. However, it’s a grade level overview, which may or may not be helpful, depending on your purpose.
This chart shows data by teacher, but rather than noting each standard, it’s an overview of the test and how many students passed. This is a different kind of data. To use something like this effectively, you probably need to ensure that each teacher has his/her own standards- or item-based data. If not, it’s impossible to tell what you’re looking at!
This is only the first post in a series of posts about looking at data. But it includes some important questions to think about!
For my next post, read about what to do with all that data you’ve collected!
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you some important information about these topics:
This will be my first year in a joint role as instructional coach and director of an 8th grade Project Based Learning academy. I've been a classroom English teacher for the last 9 years. My biggest question right now is how to ask my principal to be more specific about how my work will be understood and how I will be assessed without seeming needy or demanding.
That is a great question! Do you have a formal evaluation system in your district? I wonder if you could ask to see it now so you know what you'll be held accountable for. Another great way is to request a goal-setting conference with your principal. You can discuss goals for your work this year and throw in the "how will this work be assessed?" question naturally.
This is my first visit to your blog, I will definitely be back!
Thank you! I'm glad you found something useful!
Looking for some ideas on how to have teacher's sign up for coaching sessions. Love reading your posts!
Thank you! That's a great question – I'll put it on the list to write about in the future!
I'm the Instructional Lead Teacher and Testing Coordinator, this is my 2nd year in these positions. I always have to present data to my administrator and staff and I'm not computer savvy so I have the hardest time trying to figure out what kind of graph to use and how to show the data. Hopefully when I read all your informations it helps a lot. Thank you for sharing you have great ideas and tips
I am in charge of data collection this year…..great tips! Thanks
I love the thought of easing the anxiety of a "dataphobe"! In today's high-stake testing, data must be collected and reviewed so coaches need to come up with ways to make it as painless as possible and even to help teachers see it as a valuable tool to improving their craft and building capacity.