I was at a meeting the other day when I heard a colleague say that she felt we needed to be "data informed" not "data driven". Those words stuck with me as I left the meeting and it really made me think about the difference between the two. As I thought about those words, I remembered an article I read in Educational Leadership called "Code Red: The Danger of Data-Driven Instruction". This article talks about the dangers of using too much data to basically do nothing. We look at the data, but we do not follow up the data with action in the classroom.
As I reflected on those words, I thought about what it meant to be "data informed". About 10 years ago I remember going to my administrator talking about how I was drowning in a mountain of papers each night. I was trying to grade every piece of work I put in front of students to have that count toward their grade. I would collect an assignment and not have it graded for almost 2 weeks because there was no time to correct it. However, my classroom didn't stop. I kept teaching and after 2 weeks, I finally made time to look at the worksheet, only to find a student that had no idea what he/she was doing. How was this data helping me respond to my students? It wasn't! I was using it to collect points, not teach students. To me, "data informed" is key to helping drive the daily plan in the classroom.
When I made the change, it was difficult to give work and not have it count for points. However, I found the students still did the work. I didn't have to grade every question to still make learning happen in my classroom. Instead of trying to grade a few extra papers at my desk while students worked, I found myself walking around and looking at the types of mistakes or problems they were encountering as they worked. This not only helped me give real time feedback, but helped me know were to go next in my classroom.
As an instructional coach I have the opportunity to watch teachers interact with students and provide feedback on the learning process. By doing this, I get a chance to see the numerous ways, besides giving papers, that allow me to observe student learning. "Data informed" teaching is a great way to make a major impact on student learning.