Strategies for Using Data in the Classroom

ASCD In Service, the official blog of ASCD, recently posted an article  entitled Does Data Motivate Or Deflate Students?, which raises some really important questions.

While we as teachers might get excited about helping students analyze their own academic data, we have to be careful about how we present it. I encourage you to read the entire article, but I found this section particularly relevant:

“…many of the teachers we spoke with thought it would be motivating for students to see their data and to set personal improvement goals. But that’s not always true. How teachers structure those opportunities may either promote or dampen students’ motivation…Our research suggests it may be best for teachers to approach data use with their students with a focus on mastery and growth…Unfortunately, some data-use practices demotivate students by focusing on status-based information, publicly sharing group-level or individual results, or providing little opportunity for student involvement.”

For students who are struggling, seeing their data can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Students with learning differences like ADHD and dyslexia are particularly sensitive to how they are doing academically compared to their peers. One of my most vivid memories as a child with dyslexia was learning that I was in the lowest reading group in school. While my teacher encouraged me to improve my reading so I could move up to a higher group, all I could do was look at how far I had to go so I could be on the same level as my friends. It seemed like an impossible mountain to climb. A student in a similar situation could easily wind up feeling defeated and ready to give up.

As part of helping students analyze their progress, it’s important to work with students to set achievable goals, as outlined in Unit 2 of the SMARTS curriculum. By setting goals and measuring progress, we can initiate a positive feedback loop. We must emphasize that students are not competing against each other—instead, they are attempting to accelerate their own growth—and the data that teachers share should reflect and reinforce this outlook.

I encourage you to check out the overview video for Unit 2 to find out more about how to incorporate the SMARTS  goal-setting strategies into your teaching!