Thursday, January 12, 2012

Using Data to Break the Comfort Zone

Although I'm not a big "new year resolution" person, I always try to run and train more in January, February, and March to prepare for the Broad Street Run 10 Miler. However, I usually end up running the race at the same pace every year because it's COMFORTABLE. This year, I started tracking my heart rate and mileage on Run Keeper. Every day I look at a little graph that shows me how hard I worked and where my performance ranks relative to my overall goal. In essence, I'm using data to break out of my comfort zone.

I think many people (myself included) settle into comfortable routines despite best intentions. This can easily happen in the classroom. And while the "data-driven instruction" is touted in most schools across the country, we often don't integrate meaningful data into our everyday instructional routines to help us meet our goals.

I think it's important to start small and track progress closely. Just as I aim to increase my mileage by 1 mile each week, aim to increase your students' achievement (using whatever measure may be appropriate) by 1 increment each week.

Here's an example. Let's say that your goal is to increase your students' reading fluency. Each week, when you meet with students in their differentiated guided reading groups, you give them an opportunity to measure and track their reading fluency. The students set a goal to increase their fluency by 2 words per minute each week (this rate is based off of RtI research). After a month, you notice that some students are not getting any better. Well, what should you do? The same thing you've always done? NO. Perhaps you need to scrap some of the activities that you use (you know... that giant paper mache project that you do EVERY year...) and provide students with more time to practice via a Reader's Theatre activity.

I know. It's hard to change the classroom activities that make you comfortable. But changing in response to data will get you results. Our kids deserve results. Responsive instruction is in your control and within your reach. This month, break your comfort zone.


  1. Got me thinking about ways that psychology students can track their critical thinking, conceptualisation of theories or use of stats. Thanks!

  2. Sounds interesting. Let me know how it goes!



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