Teaching with Data

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

Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Is two or more better than one? The research argues that teachers are more effective when they work collaboratively to analyze, problem-solve, design lessons, and reflect on their work.

The problem is occurring because…

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 14, 2011

Group members first decided which "reasons" they have no control over (can't change). Then they organized their hypotheses into categories: Instruction/Curriculum/Environment/Learner. After doing this step, they chose their top three (stars).


This group took their cue from another teacher in the class. Yesterday John stated that if you first look at your problem residing in the Learner, then you will get "lice."

This group chose their top three hypotheses, rewrote them and then also attached their prediction statements.

I and another facilitator have been working with twelve amazing educators in a Professional Development titled, “Using Data to Target Instruction and Intervention in English Language Arts.” These posters reflect the work we have been doing when working in step two of the Problem Solving Process: Problem Analysis.  The teachers were working with the Affinity Protocol as described in the book Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning.

Protocols provide a structure in which a group can have a constructive conversation around an issue and/or data.  This particular protocol that the teachers used is very effective in getting all the ideas out “on the table,” removing the ideas that are out of their control, categorizing the ideas, and then finally, choosing the top three.

In this training, teachers were working in the Problem Solving Process (Response to Instruction and Intervention) to determine what was causing the problem (hypothesis) they had earlier identified by analyzing various data reports. Once they had brainstormed their ideas about why the problem was occurring and isolated the ideas that they knew they could not change, they categorized their ideas  under four domain headings: Instruction, Curriculum, Environment, and Learner (ICE + L). These domains reflect “where the hypotheses live.” Categorizing this way, helps teachers to be more targeted in their intervention design.  When trying to determine why the problem is happening, we encourage teachers to look at the other domains–Instruction,Curriculum,Environment–before stating the problem is with the Learner.  Yesterday in the training, John commented that if you put the “L” first you have lice; therefore, if you go to the Learner first, you will have “lice.” The third poster illustrates John’s idea. Of course, the hypotheses they eventually chose, did not focus the problem on the learner, so they avoided the lice problem.

Before this training I had never used the Affinity Protocol. Now I am a total convert. After introducing and explaining it to the teachers, they started working. I was a little worried in the beginning because they didn’t seem to be brainstorming as quickly as I expected; however, my worrying was premature. Within five minutes the conversations started, the post-its started multiplying, and they were fully engaged with the task. My partner and I just took pictures, listened in on their conversations, answered question,s and made comments when asked. It was a facilitator’s dream!


Posted in Collaboration, Data, ICEL, Problem Solving Process, Response to Instruction and Intervention | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Collaboration | 1 Comment »