Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Data as the Tool for Instructional Change

Cheryl James-Ward, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & Diane Lapp USING DATA—To Focus Instructional Improvement

Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey’s Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) system is designed to enhance equitable student achievement with targeted instruction. "Equitable student achievement begins with high-quality core instruction focused on high expectations for student learning."  In their new book, Using Data, To Focus Instructional Improvement, they help define our job as educators and our continuous journey of "monitoring the process related to instructional improvement” with data as our guide and tool.

Gradual Release of Responsibility Instructional Framework
The Gradual Release of Responsibility Instructional Framework principles also applies to adult learners, although the roles of student and teacher are not so clear cut. Depending on what is being taught and, the roles of I Do, We Do, Ya'll Do, and You Do shift fluidly. We each take turns being the instructional lead learner and share research best practices through the lens of instructional improvement. 

Hard Data  
Hard data is quantifiable and should be formative and/or summative. Data is reported using descriptive statistics that answer the questions of Who, What, and When.  Often this hard data is limited because it is just one "snapshot of achievement", and fails to "illuminate a pathway of improvement.” Consequently, messengers of data must also ask a fourth question, Compared to What?  This will help support the thinking of what interventions are working, and/or what adjustment in instruction is needed.

Soft Data
Soft Data is qualitative and tells the student’s story. It includes all the students and adult interactions, in and outside of the classroom, in words and pictures. Listening to the language of interactions in the classroom on a daily basis gives us the opportunity to see instruction in action. "The single most important factor that affects student learning is instruction. What the teacher does in the classroom has a profound effect on students' learning.” (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Walstrom, 2004).

Getting to the Root of the Problem
Education is complex and the sheer number of factors contributing to its success can be overwhelming. Comparing the Sphere of Influence--What we can do; curriculum, instruction and assessments, engagement, etc. to the Sphere of Concern--What we know; poverty, background knowledge, language development, etc. helps determine which root causes it can influence, write learning targets for, and then provide the intervention that targets student learning.

It takes a Collaborative Village
High quality core instruction targeting equitable student achievement requires teachers coming together regularly and systematically to monitor student progress in a "Professional Learning Community" (DuFour, DuFour). "A plan is only as good as the monitoring that accompanies it." The essentials of this learning community routinely discuss:
  1. What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
  2. How will we know what students have learned?
  3. What will we do when they don't know or learn it?
  4. What will we do when they do know or learn it?

Data is the tool to drive the instructional change and focus needed for getting better at teaching the skills and strategies our students need now and in their future as they progress to graduation, college and life. It's a competitive global market and it's our job to make sure students are prepared to contribute!

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