Thursday, June 7, 2012

Urgent Vs. Inspire - Data-Driven Classrooms

Data Driven, NCLB, Common Core State Standards, Portfolios, Data Informed

Two of the biggest buzz words in education right now is "data-driven".  This concept of using data to drive our instruction has exploded on the educational homefront  mostly due to NCLB several years ago.  Teachers and schools now are faced with showing value in what they do, and justifying their existence in the classroom. I personally try not to focus on these issues, knowing that my goal as a teacher is educate my students, and hopefully instill a love for life-long learning. But the question is, how can you use the data to inform your instruction vs. drive it to improve student achievement?

At the beginning of my school year, I look at, "What do my students know, where do I need to take them, and how are they going to get there?" This could be equated with the concept of "driven", but have you actually looked at what that word implies?  Well, according to Merriam-Webster, the definition is: having a compulsive or urgent quality, propelled or motivated by something - used in combination. I definitely feel urgent and impulsive when I know my evaluation is based on what these kiddos achieve each year, and compelled to teach my heart out so I can keep my job.  What we really are doing is using the data to inform our students. Inform is defined as: to give or impart knowledge of a fact or circumstance, to supply with knowledge of a matter or subject, to give evident substance, character, or distinction to; pervade or permeate with manifest effect, to animate or inspire.
Our job really should be to inspire achievement and excellence in our students.  We can still use the data and but let's focus on being informed vs. driven!  

Here are some ways to inspire, empower, and engage your students this year!

1. Know where your students are in their learning spectrum and what multiple intelligences are they strong in.
2. Know where you want them to be and what you can do to help them achieve even more.
3. Involve them in looking at their own data to inform and inspire their achievement.
4. Encourage them to reflect on their efforts realistically through conferencing.
5. Help them to create a plan for changes and improvements.
6. Share and communicate their results with their world.
7. Celebrate their successes both big and small.
8. Support them in all areas to reach, meet, and exceed their own expectations.
9. Give them choice and responsibility with their learning, and encourage organization of data.
10. Empower them to grow mentally, physically, and globally.

I use data binders and portfolios for each student to keep them organized and to empower them to make decisions about their education.  The process of creating them and conferencing each week takes time and commitment on the part of the teacher, but the knowledge gained will be unparalleled in the end. Your students will feel informed, empowered, responsible, and organized giving them a sense of achievement. And you will be able to show your classroom and teaching are "Data-Informed". In the end, you'll be inspired by all of their successes!


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