Using Data to Drive your Instruction

Now that the holiday break is over with, its time to pull that curriculum map out and do some reflecting! Testing season is quickly approaching, so using data to drive your instruction for the rest of the year is a must! Looking at skills previously taught and the skills that need to be taught is a great place to start.

downloadOnce that has been established, you have to look at the skills you haven’t taught and come up with a game plan. Ask yourself, “How can I fit these new skills into my instruction, while spiraling the skills I have already taught?” Easy, minimize the skills you NEED to reteach. Let’s face it, every student doesn’t need to have EVERY skill retaught to them. Only certain students need certain skills to be retaught. There is no need to waste time reteaching something that half the class has already mastered. That is where your data comes in. Here are some ways to incorporate the data you’ve gathered to drive your instruction:

Identify your data source

The first step in preparing students for testing is to identify the tools you will use to collect data. There are several options available on the internet, such as general practice test and previous state exam practice problems. You may already have benchmark assessments included in your curriculum. Once you have gathered the materials, look through it and find what will fit best with your current students. Using a program such as CARS will help teachers identify specific skills they are lacking. Looking back on your own anecdotal records will also help you determine skills that need to be retaught. I keep a “Daily Learning Target” sheet on my clip board, which allows me to keep notes. Keeping a system in place that helps me track each skill using a check plus system has helped. Also, I use exit slips and quick assessments to determine what skills have been mastered.

Finding time 

Updated data may need to be collected in order to make the best decisions. With this being the case, finding time to distribute these new materials to students is important. Educators know that children need to be in the best position to take extended periods of practice material test. The beginning of the day is typically the best time to distribute these resources to students. In the morning they have the most energy and are more likely to do their best, as opposed to after lunch hours or later on in the morning. Getting this task done right away will give you time to analyze the data later on that day and prepare for the next day.

Analyze the data

Once you have collected the data through a system that works for you, begin to analyze it. Looking at the data collected will give you an idea on the amount of reteach groups to create. If the majority of your class failed to gain proficiency on a particular skill, that indicates the whole class needs to be re-taught. Analyzing data is the driving force in our instructional planning. As educators we don’t have to guess or contemplate on what to do next. If we take the time to know each of our students strengths and weaknesses then it will save us time in the end.

You may look at this system, and think that it appears to be an extra step and will take up too much time. Yes, it is an extra step! It’s an extra step that will save you time in the long run. It is the extra step that you need to take in order to expand on your instructional practices and enhance your students learning. This step is necessary and worth it in the end.

Making Instructional Changes

The final step in the process to making changes that will drive your instruction in the right direction, is to plan. With a transparent understanding of the data  in mind, decide what direction to take. Develop a plan to move forward in this direction. For example, the data I gathered from my own classroom has revealed to me the skill sets that some of my students are still struggling with. I plan to use the bell ringer time in my classroom to pull three to four students to focus on those particular skills.

My focus will come from the results of the data I collected. I will use the small group time as an opportunity to hone in on these skills. This time spans anywhere between ten to fifteen minutes. Pulling a different group everyday to reinforce skills previously taught will ensure your students are making gains. Another suggestion is to use your guided reading time or math group time to focus on reteach groups a couple of days out of the week. While it is important to move forward with instruction at this time during the year, it is also important to fill in the gaps that are missing. We can only do that if we have a clear understanding of what those gaps are, and make changes so that we can fill them.

Making decisions based on data can make assessments useful as they become an integral part of the instructional process. Change is often a struggle and for teachers it may be challenging to change the way we teach. Using assessment tools such as quick dips, exit slips or benchmarks will help teachers in meeting this challenge. Once the area of change is identified, it is the teachers responsibility to create high quality corrective instruction that will meet student needs. This does not always mean to reteach the lesson again. Instead, the teacher has to find ways to be creative in their approach. The goal is to come up with innovative ways to teach children and to engage them in learning. In order to ensure our students are successful, change is inevitable.

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