Students Can Own Their Data: 5 Ways to Get Started

Students Can Own Their Data: 5 Ways to Get StartedWhen students are involved in the assessment process, they are required to think about their own learning; they articulate what they understand and what they still need to learn; and the result is that achievement improves. Pretty bold statement, right? It’s true . . . and as it happens, students are a key stakeholder in their own education, and they generate the most data in a classroom. So how do we help them own their data? Below are five key ways to help students get started with this process.

Identify sources of learner data

Take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of all the data students have available to them to inform or support their learning. How often, and to what degree, do students understand the results they receive from each of these data sources?

Clarify how students currently use the data

Ask yourself these four questions regarding each data source you brainstormed:

  1. How do students talk about this data?
  2. What questions do students ask about the data?
  3. When and how do learners use the results to move their learning to the next level?
  4. How do learners use the data to set goals — either academic, skill, or learning tactic goals?

As you consider your responses to these questions, you might also want to add a frequency aspect to your response – so how often do these actions occur (always, sometimes, seldom, never)? In the 2016 Make Assessment Work survey, students listed the following types of assessment as being most helpful to their teachers in helping them learn: practice tests, interim assessments, classroom tests and quizzes, performance tasks, and formative assessments. If students think these types of assessment are helpful, how can we help students better use the results themselves?

Provide students the basics

If we put learners at the heart of assessment – the purpose of assessment being to support learning – then all of our assessment efforts should be seen as learning tools that actively connect students and their learning. To empower students to own their data, they need to:

  • Understand the purpose and use of different types of assessment
  • Know how to collect evidence of their learning
  • Understand what the evidence means
  • Know how to apply or use the evidence to make decisions
  • Connect their individual efforts to their growth
  • Communicate with the teacher, peers, and other stakeholders who can offer support

Jim Popham talks about “student-determined adjustments,” the application of their data by the students that informs them in regards to the learning tactics which are working, where they need to go in their learning (goal setting), how close they are to their goals or the teacher’s targets, and how well they are meeting the stated success criteria. Connecting application to growth helps reinforce (or build) the ideas about growth mindset – the idea that effort will make a difference and anything can be accomplished if you apply yourself.

The data students have access to helps them ask better questions related to their personal learning. The data also provides support to learners in asking for help, communicating their goals, and communicating the results with parents or guardians.

Strategies to support data ownership

Now that you’ve done some reflection, collected some facts about student use of data, and provided some basic information to your learners, you may be wondering what strategies will really help you build these skills in your students. Here are a few to consider:

  • Student-generated questions: Teaching students to generate their own questions enhances inquiry skills, builds problem-solving skills, and causes them to think. What do they need to know about the evidence of their learning? What do they want or need to do with the results? What questions are they trying to answer when they look at the data? When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership and make new discoveries and connections on their own.
  • Student-created review sheets/checklists: Similar to generating questions, having students use the data available to them to create review sheets, checklists, and even success criteria, involves them in new ways in thinking about the evidence of their learning. When students are provided with clear success criteria and assessments are aligned with the learning targets and success criteria, the “feedback,” or the evidence they receive about where they are in their learning, can help them clarify what’s important to them as individuals and why.
  • Rate Your Confidence: At the end of any assessment or assignment, students can be asked to rate their confidence in their responses. How did they do on the assessment? Where were the challenges? Where were the strengths? And why? Taking a few minutes with this form of self-reflection helps build self-regulated learners. When assignments and assessment are returned, the opportunity to see the results alongside their reflection provides a way for students to use the data to monitor their progress.
  • Post-Quiz Reflection: As a series of reflection questions at the end of an assignment or assessment, collecting ideas from students about how prepared they felt, what preparation tactics they used, and the effectiveness of those tactics provides students data to build self-regulation and metacognition.

Basically we are talking about helping students become assessment literate – developing the knowledge and skills needed for the effective use of their results – data – to support their learning. What are you doing in your classroom to build these skills with your learners? We’d love to hear about it on Facebook or Twitter!


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