How are teachers currently measuring the effectiveness of their student curriculums? Let’s say that Grade 5 English scores are down at the moment, for example. This may be difficult for teachers to resolve because there may be many factors that affect the score.
What if teachers could be supported with a digital tool that enables them to better recognise where the gaps lie, both at a student and class level? What if the tool could also help address these gaps? This is how technology can provide an additional dimension to a data-driven approach and be incredibly helpful.
What does it mean to be data-driven? It means that you act based on objective data rather than a gut feeling. This can be a controversial topic in education.
As educator, Rachael George, points out in the ASCD article, Using data to support the whole child, “As educators and communities wrestle with how to evaluate student performance, school performance, and individual educator performance, all stakeholders have an opinion, and, most often, those opinions are very diverse. In fact, some conversations around data get folks so heated that people just decide to opt out of the conversation entirely or mask their real beliefs and practices for fear of being isolated by others in the field. Although this might be a good coping mechanism in the moment, it does nothing to move forward the conversation on how to best support our students and improve our education systems. I firmly believe that you can be a data person and also work to support the whole child, but, in order to do so, all of the information gathered and the purpose for the analysis of that information needs to be frontloaded. The intent of using data must be transparent, and student growth in all areas—both academic and developmental—must be the focus.”
As teachers, we are looking for identifiable patterns across our students and classes. We want to be able to grade the work completed but also pull relevant data at the appropriate time. If we can extract useful insights from the data we collect, it informs our teaching and student learning. This is where Writing Legends can help.
At the end of May this year, in less than three months since launch, we celebrated a milestone of 20 million words written by students on Writing Legends. This brings tremendous benefit to both teachers and students.
A number of features which we released in recent months will go further in assisting teachers in encouraging even more writing. Let’s take a look at one of the features now.
Goal setting component
Teachers are able to choose the start time and the average word goal per week for their students.
There are many reasons why goal setting is tremendously useful. First, it provides a clear path. Students will understand what they need to achieve and they can be provided the steps or tasks that help them meet the goal. They can also spend time planning what they need to do.
Second, it teaches students important skills in organisation and time management. More importantly, if the goal set is within reach, and the students start making progress, this can be a tremendous confidence booster. In turn, they will be motivated to press on.
According to the Victoria State Government Department of Education and Training’s article on HITS: Setting goals and learning from them, goal setting is also viewed as one of the 10 HITS (High Impact Teaching Strategies) that emerged from thousands of studies around the world into teaching methodology.
The Professional Learning Board LLC point out how goal setting should not become like New Year resolutions which are set and then never looked at again. In their article, How can individual goal setting enhance student performance, they suggest a few tips including visualisation, checking it off, revising the goal and lastly, celebrating the attainment of the goal.
The goal setting feature on Writing Legends ties in well with the reports teachers can pull on students and their classes. Teachers are able to see the number of writing activities completed by each student alongside the number of words written and the time they have taken. With this feature, teachers can be easily alerted as to the students who are significantly below class average.
There are also breakdowns of class averages which enable teachers to easily see the significant disparities between the boys and girls in their class. So, as you go about your day to day lessons, you will be able to gather data about what is happening in your classroom. You will be able to get a more detailed idea of how well your students are doing over time and across your classes.
If you’d like to understand more about taking a data-driven approach, here are two resources:
- Take a quick look at this talk on data-driven education by Khurram Virani at TEDx West Vancouver ED. Khurram is the co-founder and Head of Education at Lighthouse Labs, where he has been disrupting the way people learn to code. He talks about how he is using data-driven education to personalize learning. Khurram mentioned “Teaching is hard. Curriculum is harder. Improvement is hardest.”
- Review these five tips that can help you in developing your plan for using data to better inform your decision-making processes. These tips are from an educator, Craig A Mertler, in his article, Using data effectively and efficiently.
That said, if teachers can utilise great educational technology in their classroom, this will amplify their impact. It will enhance opportunities for teachers to efficiently and effectively focus on student needs by zoning in on high impact learning experiences.
If you are teaching writing to children grades 3 to 6, this may be a great time to explore how Writing Legends can assist. Navigating through all the aspects of the writing process can be challenging. We can help guide learners through their writing development, providing prompts, tools and opportunities for timely feedback. As part of our Assistance for Schools response to Coronavirus, we are providing Writing Legends free of charge through to July 31, 2020. Teachers, feel free to register today at www.writinglegends.com