Data, data and more data!

The teaching and learning that occurs in the classroom is all based on data. The cycle of data collection and data analysis is a significant part of planning and programming for a teacher. While assessment is crucial for teachers to gather data in order to plan and program, it is not the most important aspect of teaching and getting to know your students. Marking and analysing assessments can be extremely time consuming so here are a few tips to help you assess knowledge, understanding and skills in efficient and effective ways.

Annotated Work Samples

Using student work throughout a unit is a great way to assess their understanding without having to create and complete separate tasks, especially when work is completed independently by the student. I like to use personalised stamps to give feedback and mark samples which gives me a clear, visual picture of what the student can and cannot do. Also, self-evaluation slips or conferencing slips are a great way to check and mark samples, particularly in writing. Using my Goal Checklists (available on TpT store) you can assess phonics, reading and writing samples while conferencing with students and set new goals with them. Through the use of digital platforms such as Seesaw or Class Dojo, teachers can create digital portfolios of work samples and assessments. The bonus of digital portfolios is that they are easily shared with families making reporting on student learning immediate and purposeful.

Checklists on writing work sample for assessment
Writing work sample

Using the above work sample in conjunction with my Goal Checklists for writing and phonics, the teacher can determine that this student understands a recount requires who, when and where, that they can use high frequency words, write about one idea, use spaces, use nouns and verbs and so on to write a sentence. In regards to the child's phonics, the teacher can determine that the student is able to sound out words and write a range of VC and CVC words. To achieve 5 stars for writing or 4 stars for phonics, the teacher can then use the next checklist to write a goal with the student. For this particular student who had just achieved this number of stars, I encouraged them to add more information in their recount such as what they did at their friend's house. While they are working in towards the next checklist, they had not achieved enough to assess with it yet and if I were to have used it they would've had many boxes left unticked.

Exit Tickets

A question or small task completed in less than a few minutes before your students leave for breaks or during transitions between lessons. Exit tickets can be used in a number of ways to assess a particular skill or understanding of a concept that has recently been taught. They are short snippets of information that give the teacher an insight into what students know or can do, before moving onto new concepts or skills.

Exit tickets can be;

  • Printable slips of paper with small tasks or questions. Use my Quick Check Tickets (available on TpT store) which are aligned to the Australian Curriculum. These can be stored in folders or filing systems for quick easy access during parent-teacher conferences and reporting.

  • Written questions on the board that students respond to with post-it notes. To keep a record of this, teachers can take photographs of the responses or use a class list checklist to record responses.

  • Digital questions through the use of apps/sites such as Padlet, Mentimeter, Plickers, Make It or Kahoot.

Literacy exit tickets for Kindergarten
Foundation Quick Check Tickets

Using the above examples of exit tickets given on three separate days, the teacher can determine that the student may be reversing 'b' and 'd' and is confusing vowel sounds or not hearing the medial sound accurately, but is hearing the initial and final sounds. Using this information the teacher can then use other assessments and observations to determine whether the child would benefit from a hearing test or whether the child is finding vowels challenging. In the second situation, the teacher can then plan for small group interventions to practise vowel sounds. In this sample of exit tickets, it is also clear that the student is monitoring and checking their work, thinking critically about their responses as they crossed out and made changes to their answers.

Photographs or Videos

Using photographs or videos throughout a unit of work to assess hands-on or practical tasks is extremely effective. Remember that “a picture tells a thousand words” and through a series of photographs or video recordings of interactions with students, it can provide teachers with great insights into student reasoning and how they complete the task. This is especially effective for mathematics or science assessment. It is a very effective use of time when a teacher can walk around snapping photographs or videos of students engaging in a hands-on maths task instead of wasting another lesson for students to complete a written task about the same concept. The photos or videos can then be analysed later to gain the data. Often the photos and videos will show you more, if not the same, about the student and their abilities than a written test would.

The above photographs were taken during a series of lessons where the class were learning about multiplication. The photos show that Joel can write numbers correctly, can make groups of objects and count how many altogether and can draw visual representations to help him solve problems. However, the photos also show, that Joel has difficulty visualising and was not able to accurately count the pom poms in the tray. This could be due to a few reasons: he is not aware that he could then empty the tray onto the desk and count them all, or he is not able to visualise the third pom pom in each square, or he is not able to count them as he places them in the tray. While it is not completely clear from the photograph, Joel can draw visual representations but in this situation, the visual representation does not match the word problem stated by the teacher. The word problem was "Farmer Bob has 3 bags of apples with 4 apples in each bag. How many apples does he have altogether?" Joel is able to match the numbers of 3 and 4 but falls back to addition due to a lack of understanding associated with the language of multiplication word problems. Following these assessments, Joel's goal would be to practising multiplication word problems using concrete materials. During these tasks we could work on his visualising and counting.

Data Walls or Bump it Up Walls

Data walls and bump it up walls allow students to self evaluate and set goals with the teacher. They provide a visual snapshot of where the class is as a whole and where individual students are in relation to their class. I believe anonymity is important when using class data walls or bump it up walls where students move themselves when they achieve a skill or concept. This ensures privacy and means that only the teacher and the individual student are aware of their results. It’s a good idea to add self-evaluation checklists to your bump it up walls or data walls as well so that these can be kept as evidence of the progress the student has made. For the child that may always be on the low end of the wall or criteria, you could add a fake student to the wall so that this child does not always see themselves at the bottom of or behind the rest of the class. Use my Bump It Up Walls (available on TpT store) as a starting point in assessing writing.

Data wall for small group about sounds
Kindergarten Small Group Sound Data Wall

Using the above display, the teacher can determine that in this small group of students, the orange and blue students are making progress with their sounds and have learnt most of the collection taught so far, but are finding the vowel sounds most challenging. The teacher can then plan to focus on the vowels, which make multiple sounds, with these two students. It can be determined that the pink student is not making the expected progress and may require further intervention or investigation. The monsters allow the pink student to remain anonymous to the class. The students in this group can then use this display to evaluate their progress and set goals for themselves. For example: "I don't know the sounds of 'a' yet so I'm going to practise them this week."

Class Observations

Observations can take the form of check boxes to state whether a skill is achieved or not achieved, or they can be more open ended as a class list used by the teacher to record brief comments or notes about a particular task. While checklists only provide teachers with limited information, they are effective in assessing students quickly and in a short period of time.

Checklist and observational notes from lesson
Checklist and Observation Documents

Using the above checklist the teacher can determine which students can make predictions on two separate occasions. Using the observations record, the teacher can gain more information and data. The teacher can now determine which students can make predictions using the title and picture clues on the front cover of a text and which students may find this challenging. On the first record (blue) it is clear that Anne has achieved this skill, Bodhi, Esther and Ellodie can make predictions but do not make reference or use the title, whereas Bruce and Clara are not able to make predictions and instead make unrelated guesses. On the second occasion (red) is it clear that all students have made progress, including Anne who can now explain her prediction with detail. These short comments are great when it comes time to write reports.

Tests and Quizzes

Regular tests and quizzes should be completed throughout the unit, not just as a summative assessment. Often with tests, student anxiety increases so it is important to develop a positive culture around tests and quizzes, making them short and purposeful for students. The more fun and engaging they are, the more informative and accurate the data is likely to be. When student anxiety increases because they are worried about getting things wrong, making mistakes or failing a test, they are less likely to perform well which may not be an accurate indication of their ability or understanding. Tests are a part of life, such as driving tests or university exams, so it is important to develop this as a skill, however, it’s important to focus on developing a growth mindset in students so they see the test as a tool to evaluate and improve rather than an indication of how good or bad they are at something. Mistakes and failure is a big part of life and as teachers we need to develop resilience, persistence and perseverance within students. This can be achieved through the way we use and respond to test results.

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