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Gates Foundation study aims to outline, assess teachers’ opinions on classroom data use and the tools to support it

data-reportTwo-thirds of teachers in a Gates Foundation study said they are not completely satisfied with the data, or tools designed to help them work with data, which they are able to access on a regular basis.

Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work for Teachers and Students examines digital instructional tools that help teachers collect and use student data and attempts to outline the challenges teachers face when working with these digital tools.

Teachers in the national survey (in which about 4,600 participated) said they believe they have a responsibility to support each and every student, and that they should adjust instruction based on each student’s strengths, needs, and interests. In fact, 86 percent seek ways to engage students based on who student are, and 78 percent said they think data can help define where students are and where they can go.

Next page: Teachers’ perceptions about data

Ninety-three percent of surveyed teachers currently use some type of digital tool to help guide their instruction, although 67 percent are not satisfied with those tools.

The survey responses revealed that teachers fall into six groups when it comes to their approaches and comfort using data and the technology supporting data:

1. Data mavens individualize learning plans to address the whole student
2. Growth seekers use data to differentiate instruction in the classroom and adapt how they teach
3. Aspirational users believe in using data, but frequently find it overwhelming
4. Scorekeepers use assessment data to help students prepare for state tests and high-stakes assessments
5. Perceptives rely on their own observations of how students are doing in order to guide instruction
6. Traditionalists focus primarily on grades to gauge student progress and highlight where to focus their teaching

Forty-eight percent of surveyed teachers fall into the data mavens and growth seekers groups, but many participants said they are uncomfortable using digital tools to meet learning objectives.

School environment matters, too, and the survey reveals that the proportion of data mavens is 15 percentage points higher in technology-forward schools than in other schools. Those schools are characterized as having technology-proficient principals, they prioritize technology spending and investments in technology staff, they allocate dedicated time for teachers to use data, and they give teachers room to choose the tools they use.

Surveyed teachers said the current digital tools used to collect, analyze, and use data are often:

  • Overwhelming due to large amounts of data from various sources making it challenging to identify the most important factors
  • Incompatible with one another, requiring manual entry to put data to use
  • Inconsistent in their ability to report data and the level of detail provided
  • Too slow to provide information in time to tailor instruction in impactful ways

For more details in the report, including recommendations for product developers, teachers, school leaders, and funders, read the full report.

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Laura Ascione

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