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A Teacher’s Guide to Maximizing Student Involvement in the Data-Informed Classroom

Written by
January 29th, 2016

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Picture a classroom where students are empowered to own their respective educational journeys. What would this level of student involvement look like?

Graphs adorn the walls, depicting classroom goals and learning objectives set by students. While some participate in student-led conferences with teachers discussing personal progress toward learning outcomes, other students utilize assessment tools to solve problems, improve test scores or collect achievement data.

To be sure, it’s a different way to perceive the modern classroom setting, yet a worthwhile outcome to pursue. When teachers succeed at empowering their students to take ownership of their education through increased involvement, those students gain the ever-valuable ability to plot their own roadmap for short and longterm academic achievement, enhancing their personal growth along the way.

But just how can teachers encourage educational ownership through maximized student involvement? It starts with instilling a data-informed approach to teaching and learning.

What Makes a Classroom Data-Informed?

A data-informed strategy involves gathering information via assessments that detail student understanding, learning progress and classroom performance, among other measurements. No matter your educational approach, data can be your guiding light.

Data-informed instruction has been recognized as a key framework for improving student success rates. When educators utilize data to guide their lesson planning and decision making, they better understand how to respond to problems, devise more optimal methods for teaching and advance students’ learning capability at a faster rate.

Serving as a roadmap for your educational journey, data-informed instruction charts a course by which schools and their teachers can:

1. Assess student performance
2. Analyze the results in order to draw conclusions
3. Take action according to those conclusions to improve student achievement

The Importance of Student Involvement

Yet to truly take advantage of the benefits afforded by a data-informed approach, students must not only buy-in to the strategy, but also play an active role. Traditionally, teachers often served as the sole architect of roadmaps for their students’ success. Today, though, they must be willing to promote individual empowerment to help students grow.

The latest Gallup Student Poll indicates that only half of public school students feel engaged in the classroom. By having your students set personal academic goals for the school year and analyze their progress via formative/common assessments, teachers can lay the groundwork for a classroom comprised of more engaged learners.

When students take ownership of their learning, they should seek answers to the following three self-assessment questions, citing evidence based on their classwork in formulating responses:

1. Where am I now?
2. Where do I want to be?
3. How do I get there?

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Strategies for Involving Your Students

It starts with a simple role reversal. Collectively viewing an individual student progress chart, that student can walk the teacher through the assessment data in search of trends. Students can measure their grade on a particular test versus their overall grade in the class, determining whether a discrepancy exists.

As the school year progresses, each student’s involvement level can gradually increase. However, it’s important to recognize the process of student empowerment doesn’t happen overnight. Students aren’t always accustomed to being involved in this type of data conversation. Consequently, it may take some initial coaching on the teacher’s part to get student ownership to materialize.

There are various strategies a teacher can employ to aid students in the pursuit of self-assessment of their learning, according to Doing What Works. These include:

* Learning Contracts: Each time a new unit of study is undertaken, students can determine their tasks and objectives necessary to demonstrate their learning.
* Letter to Future Student: Students formulate letters to future pupils explaining what they have learned from a particular unit of study.
* Muddy Point Board: Designation of a bulletin board where students can post questions that arise as they’re attempting to gain understanding of a topic.
* Scheduled Self-Evaluations: Students grade themselves on completed assignments, noting where they’ve succeeded and where they need improvement.
* Teacher-Student Interviews: A regularly-scheduled meeting to discuss the student’s progress with a class.

How Technology Can Help: Use of Data and Assessment Software

When it comes to empowering students by giving them access to their data, it’s about getting to the “now what?” stage faster. For years, teachers were forced to make do relying on bulletin boards to manually chart class-wide academic progress, and having students track individual results on paper. Today, however, the emergence of student assessment software enables us to obtain data much quicker and without significant manual effort, so we can interpret the results and take action.

Effective data and assessment software not only enables teachers to analyze individual and classroom performance, it equips students with the ability to perform their own item analysis to determine why they got a particular answer right or wrong. The moment a student finishes a test, the tested standards are tracked on that student’s profile page so that trends can be analyzed over time. Consequently, teachers can get straight to a data conversation with students, as opposed to having to first collect that data. And on a full-class basis, teachers can share automated graphs on a projector screen summarizing classroom-wide benchmark results from which students can draw personalized conclusions.

With the proper data software system in place, teachers can have students walk their parents through their assessment results displayed on their student profile on parent-teacher conference day. This gives students ownership not only of their learning, but also of describing their progress to their parents through these student-led parent conferences.

Ultimately, we have to KNOW our students and they have to KNOW themselves. Educational ownership starts long before adulthood. When your students can develop their own goals for the school year – charting the steps and monitoring their progress – then your class has embarked on a journey toward academic success and personal growth.

*This post was written with contributions from Mark Adato, Anthony Badella & Franck Reyherme


Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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