Teaching with Data

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

Going around the roadblocks

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 21, 2011

Last week when I was co-facilitating a professional development (“Using Data to Target Instruction and Intervention for English Language Arts”), we asked teachers to brainstorm a list of “roadblocks” to using  data to make instructional decisions. Time was definitely a roadblock that every one agreed is really a problem; however, we later created a “Like Me” graph, using the top seven choices, “Time” being one of those choices, and it turned out when faced with picking the top four roadblocks to data use, time was not one of the major choices (See photo. Time is the second row from the left).

When I asked teachers why time they did not see time as a major roadblock in this list, they stated because there wasn’t anything you could do about time. They never had enough time, so what else could you do about it. This thinking made me stop. I had been thinking that people have to be shown how to best maximize their time with the limited amount they have. I believe that these teachers were thinking that out of the choices they could make, how to resolve the time issue, was not a choice they would waste their energy on because there was really nothing they could do about it.

It’s true. Time can be our Waterloo in education. We never seem to have enough of it; we don’t have the money to pay teachers the amount of time we need them; and, when working with data, especially when you are starting out, it TAKES TIME! So with the lack of time, comes the lack of patience, which I see as definitely as  obtrusive as time: they are inextricably linked. When teachers don’t have enough time to complete the assigned task, they lose patience, becoming more and more frustrated, less and less patient with the data analysis process.

Data analysis can become a very time consuming task, especially if you do not have specific goals or structures in place. With very targeted goals, realistic expectations, an understanding of the time limitations, and strong organization and preparation, the issue of time can be addressed much more effectively.  We have to learn to work better with the limited time and resources that we have. This preparation should start taking place before the end of the school year, so in the summer, professional development of data analysis can be developed.  Examining data without specific goals or questions will only be an exercise in continual “data admiration,” which becomes a waste of time,  leading to frustration. Specific data questions and problem solving goals assist in designing the training, meetings, and documentation needed to analyze and act upon the data.

I really don’t believe that I can “blow up” the time roadblock, but one of my goals is to help schools construct a path around this roadblock so that it doesn’t stop the flow of information, knowledge, ideas, and actions.


One Response to “Going around the roadblocks”

  1. mary fraser said

    I enjoyed reading your blog and the discussion of time management being something that CAN be solved. Here are my data simile and metaphors:
    Metaphor: Data are all the fish in the seas.
    Simile: Data are like birds flying south in the winter; to be effecient they must be in an organized formation.

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