Teaching with Data

Ruminating on effective ways to use data to guide instruction in the classroom and other topics.

Do I really have to collaborate?

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 10, 2011

                                       “Meaning and action result from collective processes that develop shared commitment to improved student learning.”
Data-Driven Dialogue

I started my career in education as a high school English teacher. Collaborating in high school is generally a struggle. Time–the lack of it–is one of the primary factors, but also high school teachers have become comfortable staying behind “closed doors.” However, times are changing:  more and more teachers (elementary and secondary) are opening their classroom doors (willingly or with a gentle tug)  and collaborating to find the most effective ways to meet the academic and behavior needs of their students.

When analyzing student data (academic, attendance, or behavior), the research and my own personal experience, proves that collaboration is best. But why?  In the book, Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning, Kathryn Parker Boudett and Liane Moody state:

When people are involved in analyzing and interpreting data collaboratively, they become more invested in the school improvement efforts that are generated out of those discussions. The more people involved in data analysis and interpretation, the more effective the resulting school improvement efforts will be.

We cannot  improve our schools if only a few people are holding the keys. Teachers must be involved in the data inquiry and problem solving process in order to bring authentic and effective instruction into their classroom. Teachers must have a voice in this process because their knowledge and understanding of their students are critical components of the data analysis ( Even though I am primarily focusing on teachers in this entry, it is  important to remember that all other stakeholders–clerical, aids, parents, students–are involved in the data inquiry and problem solving process at various times and for various purposes).

When working with more than two people, especially if a team is just beginning to work with data, it is important to have structures and protocols in place to effectively guide the conversations (more on data protocols in upcoming entries).  My first experiences on a school data team made me appreciate having some type of structure to follow. Working with data can be very overwhelming; you can literally get lost in the data, especially when working with team. Structure and protocols, when consistently used, help prevent getting lost in the data labyrinth.

I hope to revisit in future entries. However, before I sign off, I have to make a Star Trek analogy (you thought I wouldn’t do it). Captain Jean Luc-Picard, the captain of the Starship Enterprise, explored the galaxy with his crew–his team. Working with Data (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and the other members of his senior team, he traversed the galaxy, battled the Borg, and had unending adventures (inlcuding my favorites with Q). Star Trek–all five series–are driven by a team of characters. They come together in each show to save worlds, their ship, and each other, from continual disasters. We as educators have to come together, work collaboratively, to save our students from falling into the black hole of low achievement.

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One Response to “Do I really have to collaborate?”

  1. I feel that teachers can be powerful advocates for their students when they use data in effective ways to tell the stories they can see in their students’ successes, struggles, and challenges. I highly encourage teachers to find ways when they meet to share and talk about the various pieces of data they use every day. In order to help make meeting about data have more effective outcomes, I have also found that using a “protocol” to structure the conversation can be very helpful in many ways. Using a “structured” conversation supports the participation and helps keeps the focus, while encouraging receptiveness by providing a “safe” context in which to talk and work.

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