Data Driven Teaching

As teachers, we’ve always tended to go with our hunches, or feelings about how students are doing.  The recent push to use data to drive our teaching has created quite a shift in thinking about learning and teaching.  While constant testing of the students can inhibit their learning, using data to drive our instruction can help them.

I use a daily formative assessment to determine how my teaching is going.  I write up 10 questions in multiple choice format.  Most of the questions refer to content from the day’s lesson, however, I include some past information to ensure it’s still in their minds.  At first, it took a little while to write these up.  As I continued, however, it got easier, and faster.  I also sometimes reuse questions from previous assessments (so far, my students don’t seem to notice, or if they do, they don’t say anything!).

Some days, I use to do the assessing (they love that, since it feels like a video game) others, I use scan sheets for our online system.  I laminated the scan sheets to save on paper and time spent copying, so all they need is the questions printed out (although I plan to pilot using the google classroom format to go a little more paperless).  Next week, I’m going to try and see how that goes.

Once my students have completed their assessment, they get the feedback.  That’s one of the main reasons I do multiple choice – it allows immediate feedback for the students.  I offer an incentive for 80% or better, just to help them want to try, but not a big enough incentive to cause them to feel stressed about it.

The feedback is the piece I look at after school.  I download the results into a spreadsheet.  Sometimes I just look then for questions lots of students missed.  Any questions they all missed, reveal content they need more time on.  Other times, I use a chart and look at which skills each student has mastered, or not.  This information lets me see which students need review and which students are ready to move on.

By using this daily assessment, I can see what my students are learning well before the end of the unit and adjust my teaching accordingly.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as just reviewing a vocabulary word.  Other times, it demonstrates they don’t understand a math concept that I thought seemed simple.

What do you do to help decide where to go next in your teaching?  Do you use formative assessments?