27 December 2012

Is Learning Invisible in My Classroom or Does It Just Not Exist? A Rationale for Data Team Analysis

"We don't know one percent of one millionth about anything" - Thomas Edison

Teachers are paid to see what no one else can, you know? All of the learning and growth our students (hopefully) gain for the time they're in our classrooms - you can't SEE it. Not even on tests or projects. Like many of the forces and ideas John Lloyd mentions in this TED_Ed animation, learning and knowledge are also invisible. We only see the effects of the two.

Painting an image around the data you garner in your classroom is can help you see those effects. In the same way you feel a gust more than a breeze, more assessments give you more data (and more effect to see).  Sitting down with student examples in your PLC or data teams and making inferences about learning, mistakes, and building blocks and then making hypotheses are the educational equivalent of laboratory trials.

I don't intend to be hyperbolic, but when we make purely inferential decisions based on the population of students in our own classes for our instructional design, we place ourselves somewhere on the scientific spectrum usually reserved for bloodletting or other medieval medicines - you're doing things because they seem to make sense. Yes, a veteran teachers can draw upon their years of experience to increase sample size to an extent, but they aren't doing their colleagues any favors, and there are two possible final outcomes: (1) they retire and no one around and most of their knowledge and expertise leaves with them, (2) they burn out and cannot change when they day (inevitably) comes.

My encouragement to anyone who feels like their team or department doesn't willingly want to engage in common assessments, data analysis, or other research/scientific methods is to start with something simple. We have a data team meeting template from Lead and Learn in our district that is OVERWHELMING if you've not scaffolded your team with supports and celebrations up to it.

Here are some of the ideas and principles that have worked on our team.
7 Helpful ideas for getting a data team started

If I were having this conversation with people in my building right now, some one would be thinking (or saying) right about now,
"I don't need a data team or a PLC to know what my kids know and don't know."
Perhaps that's true.  My carrot for that teacher (since we all ultimately want to know what's in it for us) is to suggest that even if your class is learning at or above grade level and you have all of the tools and techniques, when you share that expertise with others, you'll end up improving the quality of the students who come to you. Who doesn't want a leg up?

My summary question:
When you look deeper into your students, do you see more or nothing?

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Thanks for sharing!