Why Data is Important for Teachers

Instruction, Leadership, Teaching

Over the years schools have evolved in the use of data. As our understanding of data grows we are more able to meet the needs of our students. Data, in the form of assessments, anecdotal records on student learning activities and even information on out of school events, can be used effectively to improve student learning.

The important aspect of data is getting it into the hands of teachers. This is essential because effective teachers use data to help understand their students, their progress and direct students to understand where they are going. However, collecting data is only a part of the learning process.

One of the significant barriers to data is teachers’ understanding of data. It is the role of an effective leadership team is to help teachers understand the data given to them. Once teachers understand what the data is and what it can do for them, then it becomes a powerful tool for improving learning. Just as important (if not more important) is that students also understand the data.

Students need to know where they are in the learning cycle and they need to know what they are working towards. Expert teachers provide examples of the end point and guide their students towards the benchmark standard.

What data do teachers need?
Teachers need to know their students. This is more than just their academic ability. It includes the social and behavioural needs. Teachers also need to know where the students’ are heading in their learning. An understanding of the syllabus to enable effective planning to take place. Guiding students learning towards key learning targets requires a deep knowledge of both curricula and where the student is.

Data and Planning for Learning
Teachers use data to make judgments about what students should be learning and how to get there.

Teachers need to have a clear understanding of what performance standards are. Furthermore this understanding must be consistent across the grade to ensure what constitutes an ‘A’ in one classroom is the same in another. To achieve this effective moderation of work samples between teachers is essential. Together with standardised testing benchmarks and class based assessments, teachers use many data sources to help make informed decisions on student learning.

Once student standards are identified the next step is to plan for differentiated learning.

Why classroom teachers use data
Data is collected from a variety of sources to:

  • determine specific learning deficiencies for individual students and to inform planning for individual student targeted learning
  • see how well concepts have being taught and to identify which concepts that need revision
  • collect evidence of student achievement to be used in reporting
  • tailor teaching to the specific needs of students
  • identify students that need additional support, and most importantly
  • allow teachers to reflect on their own teaching practice

Data offers teachers the evidence they need to make effective decisions about student learning.

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