There are four main reasons for teachers to use student assessment data when making decisions. These are:
- Curriculum revision
- Informing instructional decisions in the classroom
- Monitoring student progress toward meeting standards
- Empowering students with the results of their learning
Changes to a curriculum will result in large-scales changes. This means that the action will have an effect on all students, instead of just a small number of individuals. The goal of curriculum revision is to improve areas of achievement for all students. Timing and pacing issues within the curriculum must also be taken into consideration.
Using data to inform instructional decisions in the classroom will not have as wide of a large-scale change, but it will still impact large numbers of students. This data gives teachers the ability to understand the needs of their students and adjust their methods accordingly. Formative assessments are a great tool for this, as they show evidence of learning and thus allow teachers to modify their approach on an as-needed basis.
Item analysis forms are another great resource for gathering this information. Teachers can review results by learning targets, individual progress, class averages, and more.
Monitoring student progress toward meeting standards is another important course of action. This data is gathered from standards-based assessments. After analysis, teachers can create specific action plans to help meet the needs of their students. The process is then to be repeated in a cycle, allowing teachers to see what changes are working and what remains to be improved.
Having students track and monitor their own progress is another great approach. Providing them with feedback, specifically from formative assessments, can be highly effective. There are three things that students must understand:
- What their learning target or goal is
- Where they currently are in relation to achieving this goal
- How to close the gap between these two positions
Teachers must explain to their students the learning targets and the criteria for being successful. Then, they provide feedback. Effective feedback can come from a variety of places, such as class discussion, teacher-student conferences, homework, and formative assessments. Once students can visualize where they stand, they may begin to feel more motivated and take ownership in achieving their goals.
Using data to inform decision-making is a highly important and effective process. It is a powerful tool for anyone interested in improving achievement in education.
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*Information from e-book “Teaching and Testing: Steps for using data as a tool for teaching and learning” by Nancy W. Sindelar, Ph.D.