Data collection and analysis can be overwhelming for teachers, but it doesn't have to be. The first step in easing data anxiety for teachers can be as simple as changing the definition of what data is and how it can be collected. Data is not just the fancy graphs that are provided by the companies that administer benchmark tests. In fact, it can actually measure anything you want it to measure.
I have heard many teachers state that standards-mastery, of course, is important, but it shouldn't be the entire focus of teaching. They tell me that they also want to see their students grow on an interpersonal level, become better humans, treat their peers with respect, and become independent learners who know how to advocate for their needs. I agree!
Where teachers can sometimes struggle is knowing how to use data to show objective growth in those areas. Below are some tips for data collection in 3 areas that I have seen successful teachers use in order to measure what matters in their classrooms.
How to measure student attitudes, mindsets and perspectives
The easiest way to understand how your students are feeling on a global level is to survey them. For surveys to be more valid and reliable, you will want multiple questions that measure the same theme. You will also want to give the same survey multiple times per year. I personally like surveying my students at the end of each quarter.
Of course, collecting data and analyzing it are two separate tasks. Being able to compare trends in answers from quarter to quarter will give you valuable insights into where your classroom culture is strengthening and where it may be suffering. Microsoft Excel is my favorite tool for creating graphic representations of my data.
Need an example? You can find a 15-question survey I created that measures student attitudes toward "Academics," "Personal Growth," "Access [to resources]," and "Learning Environment" by following this link. You will also find a corresponding Excel data tracker where student responses can be inputted and then bar graphs will self-populate, showing class averages on each survey theme, per quarter. This makes noticing trends and analyzing data easier.
How to measure improved student behavior
Objective indicators of improved student behavior is fairly easy to track. Here are some ideas:
-Keep a calendar in which you write the percent of students who complete their homework every day.
-Keep track of how many disciplinary referrals you write each quarter and set a goal to decrease your number by 50% each quarter. If you are extra ambitious, set your goal for 0 disciplinary referrals by the 4th quarter.
-Use ClassDojo. It is a fun, free tool that will create behavior charts for you and each of your students. It is an excellent way of checking your ratio of positive to negative feedback you give your students. Set a goal to increase the ratio of positive to negative rewards each week, month or quarter.
How to measure increased parent engagement
Parent engagement is an area that most teachers and admins want to see thrive. Have you tried:
-Committing to call five parents at the end of each week before you leave school to tell them something great their child did in class?
-Committing to calling each parents once per quarter and keeping a tracker to hold yourself accountable to meeting that goal?
-Tracking how many parents attend after school events in order to see if attendance increases each time? Which events are most popular? Whether parents are "repeat" visitors or they only come once?
-Tracking every single interaction you have with a parent? And I don't mean sending a generic newsletter in a student's backpack. I mean face-to-face, phone or text interactions? Try creating a spreadsheet where you simply put a tally mark each time you interact with a parent in a meaningful way. Then, compare that to their child's academic and behavioral performance? Are you noticing trends?
These are all ways in which teachers can collect meaningful information about the growth of their students and their classroom environment without having to deal with messy algorithms or computer programs.
There is no shortage of ways that teachers want to impact their students positively, beyond academics. The best teachers know that if something matters to them, they should measure it. Try one of these strategies out. Share it at a staff meeting, then let me know how it goes!
Carla Rivera-Cruz (CRC) is an educator and entrepreneur committed to helping like-minded educators reach their fullest potentials.