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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In Complex Teaching Environment, Access to Data is Key

I read author and English teacher Jim Burke’s excellent list of “10 Elements of Effective Instruction” he developed, and two things struck me.

First, he notes with the complexity of the classroom, managing time is critical for teachers.

“Every year it seems we are asked to do more, though never, of course, given more time in which to accomplish the goals,” he wrote.

In the work we do with districts, we’re constantly finding ways so that technology can help teachers do their jobs the best way possible. I often go back to something an administrator told me once:
 “Put yourself in that mindset, hurried, low frustration level, interrupted continually…” 

I thought of that description again in reading Burke’s list that he modeled after a surgeon’s checklist.

The second part that struck me was No. 5 on his list: “Integrate assessment throughout the instructional process, using the data to establish initial understanding, measure progress, provide feedback, refine instruction, and prepare students for future performances; this includes students reflecting on and assessing their own performance and progress.”

In the work we do with districts, it’s common to discover most schools have more data than they know what to do with it, and often it’s not presented in a format that can useful to them. Burke is right on that integrating assessment and using data to help students improve is critical. The context of his list related to the lack of time that teachers have is even more significant. 

To be able to use data effectively for instruction, it needs to be in format that’s accessible and easy to use for teachers with their busy and complex schedules. It’s also important for data to be timely or in the hands of the teachers as quickly as possible. That’s where technology, if applied correctly, can make a huge difference. Otherwise, “using data” is something that sounds good in a checklist, but it can easily be either scrapped or not used to its fullest potential because, like Burke noted, teachers are never given more time, only more to do.

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