Using assessment data to inform teaching and learning in the classroom
Being Census year, statistics, data, and number crunching are front and centre in many minds. In the same way that many New Zealand government departments, organisations and groups use Census information to best provide resources and support for Aotearoa, so too should student data or assessment data be used to best improve educational outcomes for learners.
For a long time, we have known more about the potential for using assessment data to improve teaching practice and student learning than how to actually do it. This situation is now changing.
To make meaningful change:
- Data needs to provide teachers with curriculum-relevant information. That information needs to be seen by teachers as something that informs teaching and learning, rather than as a reflection of the capability of individual;
- Teachers need to understand the assessment data to make the needed changes to practice, and school leaders need to be able to have the conversations with teachers to unpack this meaning;
- Teachers need improved pedagogical content knowledge to make relevant adjustments to classroom practice in response to the data. School leaders need to know how to lead the kinds of change in thinking and practice that are required for teachers to use the data; and
- Everyone in the school needs to be able to engage in evidence-informed cycles of inquiry that build the relevant knowledge and skills identified above.
Meaningful data is more than just numbers and levels. More useful information could include observations of how students learn, the barriers to understanding they have, and the strategies they try when attempting new learning.
For teachers to understand how their students are doing, and what next learning steps should be, they need to know about the expected rates of progress for students at different levels of the curriculum.
Teaching as inquiry
Determining which students would most benefit from change, determines what teachers should focus their inquiry on. Student achievement data, in the form of standardised tests and OTJs, can be a valuable – and fast – way of deciding who needs more or different instruction to gain success. This is not the only measure that can be used. Anecdotal evidence, gathered from observations, evidence from formative assessment tasks, and student or parent voice all are valid ways of identifying areas where students may need support.
Gathering evidence about student achievement serves two roles in a teaching inquiry. It helps to identify who the students are, what their learning needs are, and which modifications to teaching and learning approaches might work best, against which teachers can monitor and measure the actual impact on different students and adjust and adapt practice accordingly.
At this stage of the inquiry teachers should ask:
- What’s going on in my classroom for learners?
- What do they say about their learning?
- What do I observe?
- What are my “hunches”?
- What do I need to learn more about to make this better?
- What’s not working in my classroom? What is?
Assessment for improving student learning is best understood as an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning. It involves the focused and timely gathering, analysis, interpretation, and use of information that can provide evidence of student progress. Much of this evidence is “of the moment”. Analysis and interpretation often take place in the mind of the teacher, who then uses the insights gained to shape their actions as they continue to work with their students.
Collection of evidence
A variety of high quality evidence will give teachers the best information on student progress and success. Data can be gathered from:
- Classroom engagement and participation;
- Patterns in student achievement data;
- Teacher documentation and observation;
- Teacher planning showing alignment and intention, and reflections on progress; and
- Student feedback.
Collecting student voice helps teachers to find out about the impact of their teaching, so this fits well with teaching as inquiry. Collecting student voice can be done through online surveys, written or spoken reflections, focus groups, or one on one conversations. Talking to students can also help with the direction of teacher inquiries as students are involved in deciding what, and how they learn.
Using data from the TTS Universal digital learning platform
TTS Universal provides meaningful data to help simplify assessing digital learning, so that teachers can spend more time teaching.
Teachers can see an overall view of student interactions within Folio. This information can be used to determine the reading strategies and habits of learners, so teachers can design targeted lessons to improve learning. It also shows the interactions in Guided, Shared and Independent reading contexts. Teachers will be able to gain an insight into the types of texts students want to read.
TTS Dashboard gives teachers oversight of students’ Google Drives and email accounts. This enables teachers to quickly see and assess students’ online behaviours. Without being too “Big Brother”, the Dashboard will help inform teacher conversations with students about how they are behaving online.