Teachers from previous decades may have focused on “What did I teach?,” but the new focus is “What did the students learn?” Whether classroom resources are digital or not, educators can collect data every day to inform their instruction. In the presentation “Authentic Learning Starts with Informed Instruction,” Michael Haggen, chief academic officer at Scholastic Education, and Suzanne Lucas, vice president of product marketing for Scholastic Education Digital Solutions, discussed how teachers can use formal and informal data to guide ELA lessons and make sure all students are receiving the education they need.

Although the majority of teachers now use some form of data-driven learning, Haggen and Lucas reminded attendees that both formal and informal data are essential to informing instruction. Reading assessments and other measures can provide a picture of where a student is at the moment and how they have progressed over time, but there are daily opportunities for teachers to collect important information. For example, unit projects, observation checklists, graphic organizers, and portfolios all provide insights into students’ progress and needs. Haggen said he liked to use writing portfolios with comments on each assignment. Both Haggen and the student could see how their writing improved over time as well as areas where the student still struggled.

Related: 6 steps for using data to improve instruction

A place for data-informed instruction

And while the ultimate goal is to improve individual student achievement, Haggen sees a place for data-informed instruction for every level of classroom lessons.

  • Whole class: Here, educators should be looking at class proficiency in discrete skills, like understanding homophones or using transition phrases. Then, teachers can develop microlessons to target concepts where the majority of class needs further instruction.
  • Small group: Teachers typically form these groups based on guided reading level. However, teachers could also look at shared interests and other informal data to develop the groupings. This allows the teacher to then provide students with lessons tailored to their skills and activities, which can make students more invested.
  • Independent learning: This is the setting most teachers think of when they think of data-informed instruction. Students get personalized lessons targeted to their learning needs. It’s important, though, that students are not just left on their own for independent learning. The teacher needs to communicate to the student exactly which skill(s) the student will be working on and how progress or proficiency will be determined. This helps the student take charge of their own education.

About the Author:

Stacey Pusey is an education communications consultant and writer. She assists education organizations with content strategy and teaches writing at the college level. Pusey has worked in the preK-12 education world for 20 years, spending time on school management and working for education associations including the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group. She is working with edWeb.net as a marketing communications advisor and writer.


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