Closing learning gaps happens in the classroom.
Yet, we spend a lot of time looking at test scores, benchmarks, and performance exams to tell us if these gaps are actually closing.
With all of the data out there to look at, there is no denying that it can be very overwhelming for leaders to decide what to spend their time and energy on.
I’m here to tell you: Spend it on the data in the classroom. The micro data. And spend your resources supporting your teachers in how to collect, sort, and use that information to close the learning gap immediately following knowing that it exists.
Types of Data Collection in the Classroom
Micro Data refers to the smaller, more granular pieces of information that teachers collect within their classrooms on a daily basis, such as the Check for Understanding, observation notes, exit tickets, and oral responses. I speak more about micro data and the Check for Understanding here.
When you emphasize smaller data collection, teachers organically shift to remediating for students right away, rather than having to figure out another lesson or time to help students who still don’t get it.
Why is data collection important in the classroom?
The biggest emphasis on the collection of micro data lies in the immediate remediation for students who don’t demonstrate proficiency in the standard, skill, or content being taught within the lesson. In other words, remediation directly follows and the misunderstanding, or learning gap, is immediately addressed. An example of how to collect, analyze, and sort data in real-time can be found in my Snackucation, here.
An example of the impact of micro-data collection lies in the year and a half long journey I spent with a district, helping strengthen their targeted and responsive teaching practices.
Our cycle of work included:
defining what formative assessment meant to them, using the assessment tiers as a framework.
identifying their comfort with data collection, and some root causes for its difficulty. If you want to easily know how your teachers feel about data, download this tool + video. I walk you through how to administer the survey and what to do with the results.
after identifying their data-proficiency, we dove into solidifying next steps. These next steps included shifts that they were willing to make in their classroom (such as creating a Check for Understanding and tracking it), and then how I could best support them (such as giving them live feedback while in their lesson).
Through trial and error of crafting and recrafting CFU’s and testing out different areas in the classroom for a small-group and trying out different data trackers and methods, these teachers landed on a system that works for them.
These educators have reported that gathering micro-level data has led to:
Improved student scores
Increased time devoted to lesson content as they no longer need to circulate and individually meet with students
Heightened confidence in providing tailored support to meet their students' needs
Enhanced preparation for Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings with tangible and relevant data
When responsibility for micro-data collection is placed on teachers in the classroom, the analysis of that data and next steps can then happen within Professional Learning Communities. As a result, learning-gaps are not just being closed within lessons, but are also being addressed across content and grades. Standardized tests and exams are then used to paint a picture of comprehensive understanding. In other words, smaller data is the driving force behind classroom remediation and PLCs’ next steps, and the larger data evidences the change.
So, to put more focus on classroom and PLC data-driven work, start with having real knowledge on where your teachers stand in their data proficiency. This will allow you to decide how to best support your teams for micro-data collection, analysis, and tracking.