More useful than you think!
It seems that more and more these days education is turning to a data driven model. This trend seems to be driven by the more recent emphasis placed on high stakes testing. For good or for ill this isn’t going anywhere. How can you make use of this instead of being intimidated by it. I’ll tell you what I’ve done.
IF your school or district is putting an emphasis on data, chances are they already have some sort of Data Analysis Software like Edusoft or data director. Essentially what this software does is create scanable multiple choice printouts, and in most cases the test questions that go with them. Essentially this is a scantron read by a computer instead of a scantron reader. The computer can then quickly grade and score tests for you. This function is of course important, but for you is the least useful feature this software can provide.
The power of the software
the most useful feature of data software is it’s ability to create a myriad of reports on the performance of your students. You can look at data like how they performed on a specific standard or topic, how they performed on a particular question, which response was the most common response, how your ESL students performed, and a multitude of other cool things. The only problem is you can slice and dice the data so many ways it’s overwhelming.
Start with a good Assessment
First of all a lot of schools and districts are using district wide or at least school-wide standard assessments. Sometimes they call these benchmarks or common assessments or other names. It’s essentially a way for the school and district to get a feel for how their students are performing and unfortunately in some cases look over your shoulder. These tests are a good place to start and you should look at the data from them, but most of them are far too large to be of use, because they test so many standards and types of problems at once. Going over that much data can take a long time and be more confusing than helpful I like to create my own tests, I call them COI quizzes or standards quizzes and they consist of between ten and fifteen questions. Any more than that and you will have more data than you can get to before you might want to give another one. It’s better to use a few questions and do a lot with the data than use a lot of questions and never get to it all. I like to focus the quiz on the most recent topic and include a few questions on review topics, especially those topics i have already tested and attempted to remediate. here is one i created using Kuta to demonstrate it for you.
Making the assessment
These data programs usually have a couple ways to make the quizzes. #1 make a quiz using the question bank included in the program. #2 align a test you make yourself. This means telling the software how many questions the test will be and what the answer is A,B,C,D for each question. Most also let you specify a state standard if you want to which can be useful if the test contains more than about two. the first option is good if you have a good question bank at your disposal because it is pretty fast to do. The second is a good option if you have some specific questions you want to use, or just generally don’t like the question bank. You can use a question generator like the one that comes with most curriculums or you can use kuta software (my favorite) and make all the problems multiple choice. You could also write one by hand but why do that if there is a faster way right? I’m not going into the actual steps to do either option because each software package is different. Your school or district would probably be more than happy you are wanting to use the software more and most likely have a training you can attend or an IT person to teach you.
The nest step after scanning is creating reports, I like to kinda do a top down approach with these. The first report I like to look at is a average per class. This gives me a quick look at how the students as a whole are doing. the next one is a report on what percent of students got an individual question correct. By far the most useful report is often called the item analysis. What this report is, is a table with the students on the left, the question number at the top and response on each question that a student made. with this you should be able to see, 1 what each student scored and the questions they missed. The percent on each question and which students missed it. and what choice they chose on each question. I prefer to pring this one so i can refer to it when I’m making warm/ups, assigning homework, and planning. Click here for an example
Using the item analysis
What usually ends up happening is a couple of questions have the lowest percentage, and a couple of students do as well. you can then plan remediation. If 40% or more of the students missed #1 for example then that one might need more practice with the whole class. if a particular student missed a lot of questions you can pull that student and work with them on the entire test. Perhaps have an aide or a tutor go over it with them or plan some other sort of intervention with the student. What i really like to do is go through each question that is around 70% or better and look at the wrong responses. Lets say that half of the students who got it wrong chose B and the other half chose C. i look at choice B and C and see what misconception they may have. Often the question writers do a good job of putting distractors in the choices that are common mistakes. You can use this to your advantage by figuring out which distractors your students are “falling for” and remediate their misconceptions. I then pull groups based on that misconception and target it. For more on how to do this see Pulling guided groups. Doing this gets the biggest bang for the buck as far as improving your overall class results. But no matter how you use it the item analysis can show you in great detail very quickly what is going on with your classes.
It’s often a good idea to meet with your colleagues about data, you can share ideas with them, perhaps your colleagues class did better on a certain question and you can find out how they taught that concept and improve your class. Perhaps your teaching method generated the better result but by sharing it you can all benefit and improve your game.