It surprising in this environment of data-driven education that teachers are still sometimes surprised to find out when their students are doing poorly at the end of the term, or that many IEP goals remain with little progress made. How can that be? What are we doing with all this collected data?
Surprisingly, the answer is sometimes we aren’t doing anything. We give a quiz, get frustrated the student isn’t doing well. It doesn’t really change anything. At most, there are times when the information is reviewed, but in the same fashion it was already taught. If our students didn’t get it the first time we taught something, chances are we need to do more than repeat it, we need to research it using different methods and engaging different senses.
I have spent time working in strict ABA environments and if there is one thing an ABA therapist does it is collect data! What is amazing is how sometimes this data is collected and no changes are made when it shows weeks of stagnation! Whether you administer quizzes or have more informal checks, you are collecting data about your students’ learning but that is meaningless if you don’t use it to change your approach.
It might take more than a small change too. It is not always enough to just cover a topic again, change what is motivating learning, etc. You may actually need to try a play perspective, an approach that is multisensory or moving away from the table to the natural environment.
You also need to make sure you taught all the precursors first. Think about it, if you were trying to teach a student calculus right after Algebra 1, chances are your data would show failure over and over no matter what approaches you apply! If you skip important steps your student will need to go back. If your data is showing a consistent failure to have success with new material, it is important to consider if your student needs to go back before they go forward.
Finally, it is important to look at data from more than one source. Data can be taken wrong.
I worked with a student with a lot of aggression. We were supposed to record every instance of aggression, while trying to manage the behaviors, teach targets and record progress on those targets. Even though as a team we kept reporting that this was impossible, and that instances of aggression were being underrepresented, the case supervisor still felt aggression was decreasing and would site our faulty data to prove it. Of course speech and OT reported seeing aggression at the same levels and this should have been a red flag for everyone to check their data and perceptions.
We all want to make sure what we are doing is working. There are many ways to measure progress. One way is test scores. Another is to look at student output (like essays) over time (like a semester) and see how they improve in structure, topicality, specific ness, grammar etc. No matter how we collect our data, or what measure we are interested in, we need to assure the data is accurately and fairly collected and that we do something or make modifications based off the results. Since students need new approaches and methods NOW, not after they don’t succeed, we owe it to our data to put it to use and not just leaving it collected and lying in a drawer! Our data is as useful as we utilize it to be!
Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.