Data team meeting are commonly on the schedules of PLCs, instructional coaches, and administrators. The question that needs to be continually explored is the degree to which this investment in time has a positive impact on long term student achievement. Steve explores some finding around data meetings and connects it to his driving question, “What do our students need us to learn?”
Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:28 The value of data team meetings. My attention was drawn to a smart, brief article posted by Adam Geller, titled, “Should You Cancel Teacher Data Team Meetings? You Might Be Surprised.” The article led me to information and a podcast from Dr. Heather Hill, a professor at the Harvard graduate school of education. Dr. Hill, after viewing 10 studies regarding the impact of whole team data discussions on student learning increases, found a zero impact on causing teachers to have increased productivity in changing instruction based on a better understanding of what students didn’t know.
Steve: 01:34 She suggested that our current practice has an opportunity cost. Teachers might better spend the time they’re currently spending in data team meetings in some other way that’s more productive and helping them positively impact student learning. When asked what might happen in data meetings currently that creates this zero impact, Dr. Hill labeled what I might call a search for reasons about the assessment result. In other words, as an example, time was spent identifying that the student was having a “bad day” on the day of the assessment. And while that may be a true finding, it doesn’t lead to any change in teacher practice. Perhaps more importantly she identified that when the assessment results suggest a need for remediation due to all the time pressures on teachers, there’s a tendency to look for a quick fix. In other words, how would we quickly engage the student in a remedial assignment or reteaching that fixes the problem?
Steve: 03:06 The real concern here is that that fix causes us to miss a deeper dive into exploring what was behind the instructional practices or a teacher’s need for additional learning that led to the student’s misunderstanding. A link to an interview with Dr. Hill is found in the lead-in to this podcast. As I read and listened to Dr. Hill’s findings, I recalled hearing frequent teacher and administrator complaints about the time spent in data meetings. This connected with some of my own observations of such meetings that seem to be jumping through hoops more than leading to an action or an understanding that produces teacher learning and change in teacher. This really leads to a connection with my favorite PLC question, and that is, what do the students need us to learn? I have suggested in the past that data walls actually be labeled as question walls.
Steve: 04:33 The reason we’re looking at the student data is to identify what questions emerge. Those questions should be leading to teacher learning. Again, a focus on a quick fix remediation tends to interfere or disrupt with teacher learning that is likely to take a greater time and energy investment. I found an article in the Journal of Educational Change titled, “How School Leaders Can Build Effective Data Teams: Five Building Blocks For a New Wave of Data-Informed Decision Making,” that reinforces this need for data meetings to lead to action. The link to that article is also in the lead-in to this podcast. The steps that were suggested in the article included forming a hypothesis around change in practice that would lead to change in student learning outcome, as well as the collection of evidence with ongoing reflection that leads to new teacher learning. That learning can occur even if the original hypothesis is wrong and takes the team back to the starting point and the formation of a different hypothesis.
Steve: 06:13 If you’re a teacher, leader, administrator or instructional coach who’s currently facilitating data meetings, consider tracking the changes that are occurring in teacher practices, as well as tracking the changes that are occurring in student learning outcomes. In effect, data team meetings should be a component of teacher professional growth. Dr. Hill did suggest that it was important for principals to be doing data reviews as a way of understanding how well the school is doing. I would add that leadership teams at a school should be engaged in those data review conversations. And a bottom line question that should be the focus of the leadership team’s study of data is what do the teachers need us to learn? In other words, how does student data lead to changes in administrative behavior in leadership behavior that generate changes in teacher practices that generates changes in student learning production behaviors, and the ventrally gets us to that critical all important student learning outcome. Thanks for listening folks. I’d love to hear what insights or questions this thinking about data review meetings brings to mind for you. Please feel free to contact me at barkeleypd.com. Thanks again for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 08:07 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com