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The Power of Data Puts Students In Control

February 12, 2016

Data can sound like a newfangled four-letter word, but it has been a cornerstone of the classroom since just about the dawn of time. Teachers collect it in everything from attendance sheets to quiz grades, and thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to analyze and react to student data. But all this enthusiasm about the power of information begs a few questions: does data actually do what we all hope it does? And what happens when we give our students data about themselves, and help them to understand, analyze, and act on it?

You might be familiar with the idea of the “growth mindset” – the notion that skills like grit and perseverance are more important than IQ or test scores. It’s a powerful notion, and it goes hand-in-hand with data: when students are able to track their own progress, they see where they are strong and where they need to improve. Some research shows that when students can see and act on data about themselves, their achievement goes up by over 30%. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

So if data will help our students grow, what’s the best way to share it with them? The pros suggest starting small – if you focus on one unit, or one objective, it will be easy to keep track of the class’s progress. Next, figure out what method you want to use to collect the info: digital tools like video recording or online rubrics are a few great options. Last but not least, think about how you want to present this data to students. Should they graph their progress? Create a chart? Or just reflect on their progress in writing?

There are plenty of options, but the most important piece of advice is just to get started. Find the techniques and tools that work for you, and let the data speak for itself – then, all you have to do is listen.