Back to: Module: Communication and Collaboration
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Slide 1: Welcome to this slideshow on recording and sharing data! I’m Marcquis Parham with WordFarmers Associates. I’m presenting this slideshow on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Cincinnati’s Systems Development and Improvement Center.
Slide 2: Paraprofessionals are often expected to record and share data about students. State and national standards that guide the work of paraprofessionals explicitly talk about data collection and recording. Of course, for any parapro who is gathering data, details about what to collect, how to collect it, and when to collect it come from a mentor teacher or another member of the instructional team. In fact, the collection and analysis of student data is one important topic of conversation for co-teaching teams and teacher-based teams (often referred to as TBTs).
Slide 3: There are many types of data that educators collect, so let’s first specify the sorts of “data” we’re talking about in this unit. We’re talking about information gathered specifically to help plan for, estimate the progress of, and modify instruction, often for individual children.
Slide 4: Data measuring children’s learning and behavior are also what educators use to determine the effectiveness of instruction. If a child is making good progress, then it’s quite likely that he or she is receiving effective instruction. If a child is not making good progress, then the instruction needs to change. Notice that this way of looking at data makes educators responsible for students’ progress.
Slide 5: Your role as a paraprofessional gives you a good position from which to gather data relevant to the learning accomplished by students. You might, for instance, be asked to record information during a one-on-one session with a student—perhaps the number of errors made during the student’s oral reading of a paragraph. Or you might track the frequency or duration of a particular behavior during a set time period. For instance, you might record the number of crunches a student completes in a minute or the amount of time a shy student is able to maintain eye contact with the teacher.
Slide 6: For students with learning challenges, observation and recording of behavior may need to occur very frequently to ensure that learning is taking place. You might, for example, observe one or two behaviors during math class every day for a week.
Slide 7: Or you might observe the same behaviors in different settings, for example in reading class, math class, and art class.
Slide 8: Many educators find that work to gather, record, and think about data is particularly interesting. Why? The data gathered through systematic observation often point to patterns and suggest insights that would probably go unnoticed otherwise. And good data, well considered by the team, provide a useful guide for making adjustments to ongoing instruction or longer-term instructional plans.
Slide 9: Gathering and analyzing data about larger groups of students can also help educators understand how well instruction is working. Think about it! As educators, we want to know if what we are doing is working! Sometimes, perhaps too often, we think we already know. Perhaps it feels like things are working because the students are paying attention and nodding their heads. Or perhaps it feels like things are not working because students use every opportunity to talk among themselves rather than seeming to pay attention.
Slide 10: Our intuitions about such things can be valuable, but sometimes they’re wrong. Gathering data systematically and looking at the data with others on the instructional team can provide a wider, and often more reliable, perspective.
Slide 11: At the same time, well-considered intuitions—our hunches about what’s going on with students—are not always wrong. Notably, intuitions can help educators reflect on instruction, and reflection often provides a basis for making improvements.
Slide 12: But sometimes reflection by itself is not enough. Augmenting reflection through the systematic collection and analysis of data can add what’s needed to support productive decision-making about instruction.
Slide 13: Why is it so important to be “systematic” when we gather and analyze data? It’s because we’re better able to understand what we’re observing if we use careful, thorough, and consistent processes. These processes should guide our observation, the recording of what we observe, and how we make sense of what we record.
Slide 14: For instance, imagine that a teacher determined a weekly grade for each student’s “classroom participation” by thinking back on what took place during the week. Would the teacher’s memory be sufficient? Would the teacher’s biases creep in?
Slide 15: With this arrangement, it would be possible for the teacher’s mood to influence their recollections, or it would be possible for the teacher to have a general impression of the behavior of the whole class and use that impression as a basis for determining the class-participation grade for the individual student. These methods are unsystematic, and therefore subject to error. It would be better for the teacher to use a careful, thorough, and consistent system for measuring key student behaviors related to “class participation.”
Slide 16: Here’s another example. Imagine that an educator measured a student’s oral reading fluency with a passage that was far too easy for the student, and then recorded the errors. As a result of this data collection effort, information would exist; but it would not tell the educator anything that would help the student improve reading fluency. A systematic approach might encourage the educator to choose a better passage or, preferably, a series of increasingly more difficult passages.
Slide 17: So, a systematic approach to gathering data is essential. What to gather, how to gather it, when to gather it, and how to use it are all decisions that should be made in advance of actual data gathering. These specifications, when carried out with precision, are, in fact, what make the effort systematic.
Slide 18: Also, because you are gathering data for the purpose of preserving it to share with the co-teaching team or the TBT, you assume the important role of recording it clearly and accurately. In work in factories or laboratories, machines might collect data. But in education, in your role, you are the recording instrument. If data get recorded inaccurately, they will not be useful to the team! As it turns out, your care and attention are an important part of what makes a data collection effort systematic.
Slide 19: There’s one more critical thing to remember. Whenever you gather and record data, you will be acting under the direction and on behalf of the co-teaching team or the TBT (even if that team includes just you and a mentor teacher). The data you collect and analyze systematically will be for the teacher’s or the team’s eyes only.
Slide 20: When the data concern an individual student or students, confidentiality requirements determine how, when, and with whom data can be shared. But even if the data focus on group behavior that is not covered under confidentiality requirements, sharing them with anyone other than the mentor teacher or members of the instructional team is not a good idea. The next unit (Unit 9, on “confidentiality”) discusses how information—such as the data you might gather to help improve instruction for an individual student—must be safeguarded.