Using data to inform instruction: piloting a data literacy professional learning model

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University of New Brunswick


As Canadian provinces strive to be more accountable for student achievement, educators are provided with an increasing amount and variety of assessment data at the student, class, school, district, provincial, national, and international level through increased access to information systems, online monitoring systems, and other measurement tools (Hamilton, Stecher, & Yuan, 2012). However, assessment-based monitoring systems designed to generate achievement data and to inform teaching interventions are failing to increase student learning because teachers are unprepared for, and unsupported in, understanding how to use the data reports they receive (Datnow & Hubbard, 2015). This qualitative research study was designed to develop, pilot, refine, and validate a data literacy Professional Learning Model (PLM) by conducting an applied and collaborative investigation with educators in one grade K-5 school. The PLM has four stages: Stage 1—Locate and understand data, Stage 2—Analyze, interpret, and evaluate data and their sources, Stage 3—Respond to data and transfer data to action, and Stage 4—Reflect on and evaluate use of data. The model serves to ensure each educator has the necessary knowledge and skills to use both internal and external sources of data to measure student learning accurately and to use assessment information to target student learning needs. Working through the PLM stages, the researcher implemented an assessment-led, databased approach to differentiating instruction targeting the early reading skills students need to succeed in school. This study identifies those factors educators believe best support, and those that most inhibit, their use of assessment results. This study also identifies the key components of professional learning that educators need to use data systematically for addressing student learning needs and increasing teaching effectiveness. The PLM contributes to educators’ increased use of assessment data and confidence using data to target student learning needs. Teachers and educators unanimously accepted the PLM as a strong model to develop their data literacy for teachers and educators. Keywords: Early literacy, data informed decision making, Response to Intervention, assessment, student learning, professional development