Get Creative in Your Data Gathering

September 30, 2013

Data-driven instruction. It’s a fixation among educational policymakers, evoking images of high-stakes testing and time-consuming statistical analyses.

However, relying on the data from large-scale assessments isn’t always practical for teachers. Those tests are typically designed for ranking schools and districts, not for helping teachers improve learning or their instructional strategies for individual students. Often results aren’t timely, and they generally lack detail to target specific student improvements.

So what are some better ways to gather data on your students?

1. Pre-assessments. Pre-assessments help you determine a student’s or a whole classroom’s readiness or interest in a subject so you can plan appropriate instruction. Some examples:

  • At the beginning of the year, conduct 1:1 reading assessments, focusing on fluency, accuracy, decoding ability, and whether or not the student reads with expression. Early identification of struggling readers can help you provide the additional instruction they need.
  • Before a unit, find out what standards, objectives, concepts, and skills most students already know. You may determine prior mastery by asking students what they know or by having them complete an informal unit pre-assessment.
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