Thursday, March 12, 2015

Using Data to Drive Instruction

By Rachel Barry

With all of the talk of standardized testing, I thought I would reflect on how I use data to drive my instruction in the classroom.

At the beginning of the year, the math department gives all of our math classes a benchmark exam.  This exam is multiple choice, so we are able to score it in Mastery Manager.  The data from Master Manager helps us finalize our scope and sequence of skills for the year, adjust student course placement, monitor student growth over time, and provide us with an understanding of individual students' mastery of skills.  We also use this data to determine which skills need to be spiraled throughout the year.  In this blog post, I will share some of the ways that we use this data to cycle old, not yet mastered skills into our curriculum.

This Daily Review document template was created by Ami Heng a few years ago.  Over time I have adapted it to fit the needs of my classroom.  Typically, each skill in our curriculum takes five days.  I use this document for the four days prior to the quiz, hence the four rows (Review #1, Review #2, etc.).  At the beginning of every class, students open up this document and work on the four questions under the Review for the day.  The first two questions are always related to a weak skill or to pull prior knowledge to better understand the current topic.  Once we are finished with the first unit exam, I am also able to pull the data from the Unit 1 exam, and all subsequent exams, to create these questions.  Each class of mine is different, so I adjust the document accordingly.  The third question is the Problem of the Day, a question based on the prior day's work.  This question may address a common mistake that students were making or one that may expand my students' knowledge on the topic.  The fourth question is always a fun question, for me to learn more about my students and build stronger relationships with them.

Weekly Standardized Test Practice
Each week, prior to the quiz, I have my students complete an ACT10 or a PLAN10.  This is a set of ten questions from retired ACT or PLAN tests, where the first five questions are related to the current topic and the second five questions are spiraled based on unmastered skills old benchmarks and missed unit test questions.  I have students enter their answers into the Socrative app, so I can see a live feed of their work.  I am able to use this data to determine which questions to go over immediately following the activity, as well as which skills the group hasn't mastered and still needs to be spiraled in other course materials.  To better understand my use of Socrative, you can view my prior blog post here.

Unit Test - Cumulative Review
For all of the regular math teams in our department, we include approximately five review questions based on topics that our students previously struggle with on each unit exam.  Each review packet or game also contains questions on each prior topic for additional practice.  Our unit exams consist of multiple choice questions, which we also score in Mastery Manager.  We analyze course, class, and individual data from Mastery Manager.  As a PLT, we analyze the data to determine future unit exam topics and the standardized test practice.  I look at my class results to build my Daily Reviews and note any future topics that my classes may struggle with in the future.  I also am able to look at individual students to see gaps that need to be addressed for them to better understand our math content.  This is especially helpful for transfer students because of our integrated curriculum.

These are some ways to use data to spiral skills and pull from prior knowledge that I have found to be successful.  I believe that these methods reinforce to my students the importance of retaining math content.  As the school year progresses, I am also able to demonstrate how various topics in math are related.  Students are able to understand why we teach these skills and the strategy behind the order that we teach these skills, which ultimate gains more of a global understanding of math.

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