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Self Advocacy and Data Use

Last week I discussed the emerging culture of data use at Salem Christian School. I would like to continue this conversation. However, I would like to expound on student use of data as a pursuit of excellence. We are excited to see the programmatic growth and the teaching and learning developments at Salem Christian School. We are seeing the benefits of adaptive lessons based upon using the classroom assessment and national tests. The key to our vision of data use is to benefit the student not a bureaucratic sense of accountability. A school, Christian school or not, is about the students. One of our visions is to help students become life-long learners. And, we consider a healthy self-advocacy is important to being a life-long learner. Of course, as a Christian school we hope that this would provide the tools necessary to accomplish this vision. This is why we will be continuing to help the students use their information and feedback to build better understandings.
As we move forward we will be trying to incorporate the best of research. The researchers, Hamilton et al (2009), suggests the following steps to carry out this recommendation:
  1. Explain expectations and assessment criteria.
  2. Provide feedback to students that is timely, specific, and helpful.
  3. Provide the means and tools for students to respond to the feedback.
  4. Use students’ data to inform instructional and programmatic changes (p. 9).
There are a few things that need to be considered as we move forward.
  • Students need to understand the goals. If teachers are trying to show students how to examine their own data, they must understand the goals and the criteria that will be used to assess the goals (Hamilton et al, 2009). Teachers must explicitly tell students the goals to be attained through each unit or lesson and how these goals tie into state standards. This is why the essential questions are posted in the teachers’ plan within the student and parent portals in addition to the homework.
  • Teacher feedback is crucial. If students are to use their own data to improve achievement, teachers need to provide the feedback and information for them to use. The classroom instruction should be “designed to help students understand their own strengths and weaknesses, explaining why they received the grade they did and identifying the specific content areas the student should focus on to improve their scores” (Hamilton et al, 2009, pp. 20-22).
  • An opportunity to ask questions and reflect is important. It is important that students have time to process and learn from the feedback in class (Hamilton et al, 2009).
We must be aware that there could be some challenges. According to Hamilton et al (2009), there can be a couple of roadblocks to using this recommendation. Parent, students, and teachers should be aware so that we avoid the hazards.
1. “Students view the feedback they receive as a reflection on their ability rather than an opportunity for focused improvement” (p. 24).
  • Hamilton et al (2009) suggests that teachers give students feedback that is explanatory and provides students with a chance to improve. Teachers should also emphasize the students’ level of performance on a task in relation to the learning goals and avoid making global statements about the student’s ability. In addition, teachers should encourage goal setting because students may be more willing to view feedback as a source of useful information if there is a larger goal that they are working to achieve. (p. 24)
2. “Teachers within a school have different approaches to providing feedback to their students” (p. 24).
  • Here, Hamilton et al (2009) suggests that teachers should engage with students in ways he or she finds effective; however, teachers may benefit from professional development on how to provide concrete and constructive feedback that informs student learning through students’ own data. (p. 24)
3. “Teachers are concerned that they do not have enough instructional time to explain rubrics or help students analyze feedback” (p. 24).
  • Hamilton et al (2009) says that time spent explaining assessment tools and strategies for analyzing feedback is essential to helping students understand their own achievement. Hamilton et al (2009) also suggests that incorporating time for students’ analysis of their own data into routine classroom activities may help students develop a habit of learning from feedback, making them more independent as the year progresses. (p. 26)
Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson. S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009).  Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Retrieved from  http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practiceguides/dddm_pg_092909.pdf .

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