As a new teacher fresh out of college, I didn’t know much about using data to help inform my instruction. I imagine most new teachers feel the same way. During college, I heard a lot about test scores being used in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and there were always rumblings about using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations. I didn’t know anything about using the data generated on a day-to-day basis in my classroom (e.g. student achievement, attendance, tardies, behavior etc.). When I started, I was a first year teacher focused on surviving and not focused on data collection. I didn’t know how I would be able to get through my first year. Luckily, I was supported by a great team who already knew how to use their education data effectively. They helped me get my start and helped me improve along the way.
At first, I followed the lead of the other physics teachers I worked with. The year before I had started, they began tying quiz scores to course objectives and assigning students “Reinforcements” based on their scores. For example, the first quiz of the year might be over course objectives 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 with 4-5 questions on each objective. Students who scored less than 50% on objectives would be assigned reinforcements that were tailored to help students learn the objectives. The reinforcements could be a reading assignment, an additional short lab, a short worksheet, or anything else we could think of that would help students learn the material.
Splitting up quizzes based on course objectives really helped me as a teacher. I could look at the overall scores on different objectives and see if I had taught the concepts effectively or not. If I saw a large percentage of my class had scored poorly on an objective, I knew that I should probably go back and reteach it. I also knew exactly which students struggled with each objective, so I could target those students and give them specific instruction based on what I knew they didn’t understand.
I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of teachers who are trying to use data effectively is time. It takes time for a teacher to look over scores and find out what meaning should be given to them. For me, this hurdle was easy to get over because I had a team of teachers to work with, and all of us did our part to make it easier for each other. A teacher working individually wouldn’t have the same luxury. However, there are still simple ways teachers can use data that don’t require too much time spent on planning and preparation. I think that the method I described above of splitting tests and quizzes by course objective is one of those ways. It only required me to write an objective next to each question when writing a test or quiz. Then, when I totaled the scores, I included the score on each objective as well. This simple method took a little bit of extra time, but it provided both my students and myself a large benefit.
Using data effectively, right when I started teaching was extremely helpful for both myself and my students. I was lucky to be placed inside a great group of teachers who helped and supported me. However, even if you are alone or feel alone at your school, those groups are out there. Educators around the world can stay connected and help each other learn and grow.
Director of Professional Development