Monday, June 17, 2013

Data - Driven or Data - Informed

A thought came to me after attending a professional development seminar on using data. I purposely attended this seminar because I thought I wasn't going to agree with the presenters' ideas. I know and respect the presenters, and genuinely wanted to hear their take on data and using data to drive instruction.

I have a reputation for disliking data. The truth is, I actually like data. I was the first on my block to build a spreadsheet to house student data. It's the use of data I don't care for. I'm not big on "data-driven" classrooms. Data-driven connotes the kind of impersonal, authoritarian, numbers-run penitentiary of boredom where I imagine a teacher-student conversation goes something like:

Teacher (Warden): I'm sorry student 0493, but your RIT score of 187 is unacceptable. I'm going to have to send you for remediation.
Student 0493: But, sir, I did my best.
Teacher: I know, but the data tells me you have some deficiencies.
Student 0493: May I see my data, sir?
Teacher: See your data? You wouldn't understand it. Let's just do what the data says; It will be easier for us both.
Student 0493: Okay, sir, if the data says that's best.

What we have he - ah, is a de -fi - shin - sah!
I prefer to be data-informed. Data-informed just sounds more collaborative. Data-informed connotes a personal, coaching, we're-in-this-together community of learning where I imagine the above conversation would be more like:

Teacher: Hi Betsy, I have the results of your last (insert standardized test name here). It's very interesting. Today during our coaching conference we're going to look at some of the data that shows what you are doing very well and some areas where we need to focus our attention. 
Betsy: Okay, I really think I did pretty well on some parts.
Teacher: You did. For example, in reading comprehension, you did very well in determining cause and effect relationships, but you missed a few questions on author's purpose. What can you tell me about that?
Betsy: I get confused on author's purpose questions because I don't really understand how to tell the difference between entertaining and informing. All the passages were interesting to me and I enjoyed reading them. 
Teacher: Well, I know you love to read and I can see how you could be confused. Let's review how an informational text is structured and some clue words that authors use to signal when their purpose is to inform, then we can practice some more.

You get the idea.

One of the points the presenter made, and something I recently read about, was sharing data with students so they had ownership of it. Initially, I struggled with this idea for a couple of reasons. First, I worried about the "sharing" of data in a competitive culture, i.e. "I scored a 202 and you only scored a 185." And secondly, would it really do any good to tell a child their number? I've looked at all kinds of data over the years, and still don't really understand what the number means sometimes. How am I going to effectively share this with a child? Will they get it?

Don't get me wrong. I love ownership of learning. Just not sure about how to use the data. That is until now. I think I have a plan to incorporate my classroom. I think I've found a way to structure my classroom on a business model that gives students ownership of not just data, but curriculum development, assessment and project planning. It also builds purpose and community, and places me in the role of lead learner, facilitator, mentor, coach and learning designer.

Stay tuned.

Thanks to Will Richardson for "penitentiary of boredom" and Andrew Miller for "learning designer."

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