How student data can inform instruction

Posted on Wednesday, 4/24/2013 9:28 am

A lot is expected of today's K-12 students, which places increased pressure on their teachers to find the best ways to prepare them for college and the workforce. Some educators are looking to the Common Core State Standards for assistance guiding their instruction, while others are trying to engage their pupils using student software and other technology. 

If teachers have yet to consider the positive impact data analytics can have on the instruction they provide, it may be time to do so. Here are a few things educators should know before storing and analyzing information in a student database:

Know where student data comes from
In case teachers have yet to realize it, valuable data is everywhere in the classroom. This information can go a long way in influencing the type of instruction educators deliver - they just need to know where to look.

Edutopia states that information acquired from classroom observations can be very helpful. For example, instructors can watch certain pupils to see whether or not they are having trouble learning a specific concept, or take note of how often kids interact with one another. The data that is collected can be used to readjust the learning pace of a classroom, or the way lessons are structured to benefit the most students' academic needs.

The assessments students take are other sources of data. Whether teachers are reviewing short quizzes or lengthier examinations, instructors can immediately see how well their pupils understand the material that is covered in class.

Know how to use student data
Once educators have student data, they need to know how to use it toward their advantage. According to the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, one approach is to collect data on student learning, and then interpret it and develop hypotheses as to how the information they have can improve instruction. From there, teachers can put their theories to the test and observe what effect they have on pupils' level of achievement.

Some of the hypotheses teachers may want to try out include putting time aside for struggling students to receive extra help, finding new ways to deliver lessons on difficult subject matter to pupils and finding more time in the classroom schedule to spend on subjects learners find especially challenging.

Not every piece of information educators work with will yield positive results, nor will every hypothesis lead to improvements in student achievement. However, it is important for teachers to not just identify problems in their classrooms, but strive to solve them as well.

Know which tools to use
There are many ways for educators to gather and analyze student data. One solution is Software Answer's DataMap which collects and aggregates data, so teachers can review information on pupils' strengths and weaknesses. Using this tool, instructors see data on everything from standardized tests to student demographics and use it to improve their teaching.

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