Tips for data-driven teaching

May 14, 2021The Nearpod Team

Across the country, educators are embracing data-driven instruction. With modern technology, teachers can use informal and formal data to gauge how much students are learning. Savvy teachers use feedback every day: to gauge what students have mastered, and to plan reteaches accordingly. Transformational learning happens when teachers not only use data in their planning but also actively collect data during class and use those learning results to inform their instruction. 

Data-driven instruction is an educational approach where you assess your students during a lesson, and let the data that you collect become the guide for teaching and learning in your classroom. You can use a variety of formative assessments and checks for understanding specifically designed to monitor student learning. Students get immediate, individualized feedback, while you get information on class-wide trends in misconceptions that you can clear up real-time.

Using data in your classroom helps you prioritize students’ individual needs, and is backed by science. Research on delayed and immediate feedback has suggested that immediate feedback has a significantly larger increase on learning than delayed feedback. One group of researchers who conducted a meta-analysis on the role of feedback in learning went as far as saying that “delaying feedback has a negative impact on learning outcomes,” underlining the power of giving cues in-the-moment to students. I love using digital tools to collect student data because of how quickly I can gather student input; the more immediate data I have, the better I can guide my students towards success. With so many ways to collect formative assessments, Nearpod is the ideal tool to collect student data and act on it.

Planning is is key for data-driven teaching

Data-driven instruction begins with planning. During planning, teachers design classwork to test student knowledge and create a plan for giving feedback. This involves: 

  • Crafting an answer key 
  • Labeling the standards aligned to each question
  • Deciding what questions you’ll give feedback on and when you’ll give it

Some teachers create tracking tools to help them keep track of student data. Seating charts can often double as trackers. Teachers can write down which questions students are getting wrong. They often use symbols (like stars, circles, squares, etc) to track more nuanced differences like procedural vs. conceptual errors. Another way to structure a tracker is according to standard, skill or question type with room to record student’s names.  

While writing questions and planning opportunities for feedback are unique to each teacher, Nearpod tools simplify tracking and responding to student data. When you use tools like open-ended questions and quiz questions, student data arrives on your screen in a clean, alphabetical list. You get clear and organized responses in real-time, so you can jump right into highlighting strong responses and addressing misconceptions.  For deeper data-driven reflection teachers can print out post-session reports from an individual student or the class as a whole.

Teachers can use other checks for understanding to get a more immediate gauge on how an entire class is thinking. These include voting with your hands, turn and talk,  using whiteboards, polling and more. These work even better in Nearpod where teachers can make sure they hear from every student on every question. In my science classroom, I love to use polls and open-ended questions to gather student hypotheses before we observe a chemical reaction, and after each experiment to evaluate the accuracy with which students interpreted their results. 

Tips for giving students feedback

What does good feedback look like? The acronym SUGAR can help you make your feedback high-impact and high-quality.

SUGAR stands for:

  • Small: Feedback is small when it is something you can deliver quickly and something a student can fix quickly. This allows you to give feedback to as many students as possible.
  • Urgent: Urgent feedback addresses the most pressing concerns, avoiding off-topics.
  • Generalized: Generalized feedback is transferable and focuses on a pattern of errors as opposed to one error in a specific question. 
  • Actionable: the feedback has clear, observable steps the student could use to fix the error, and
  • Returned to: this ensures that after a teacher gives feedback, they follow up with the student to validate or push further.

Feedback driven by data can transform your classroom. As you give more frequent and meaningful information you give to your students, they’ll become more confident and more in control of their academic journey. Using frequent checks for understanding with your kids, you can see how cohesive and constructive feedback empowers students to take ownership of their learning.

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