Overview of Collecting, Organizing & Displaying Data

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Teachers need to understand how to collect, display, and analyze data in a way that answers guiding questions about student learning. This lesson discusses types of data and graphic displays that provide valuable information for making decisions in the classroom.

Using Data in the Classroom

Teachers are tasked with collecting data for many different reasons. Data is information that is collected and analyzed to learn information. Data is collected to make instructional decisions, evaluate student progress, make placement decisions, and to improve the teacher's professional practice. In this lesson, we will learn about different types of data and the methods teachers use to collect, organize, and display this information.

Types of Data

What kind of data do I need? The first step to using data to analyze information is to determine guiding questions that help you decide what the data will need to tell you. You will then be able to select data that will best answer your questions. Any time a teacher is collecting data to draw a conclusion, at least three different types of data should be used to get a comprehensive view. Be sure to set a timeline for data collection because at some point, you will need to stop collecting and start using the data. Let's learn about some different types of data.

  • Anecdotal records are teacher's notes that are recorded by teachers that indicate performance on goals. When collecting notes, teachers should make every effort to write down exactly what is happening without making inferences or integrating emotion into their notes.
  • Observations are information that teachers receive by watching what is happening in the classroom. As observations do not leave a paper trail for analysis, it is recommended that teachers use anecdotal notes, rubrics, checklists, or scales in conjunction with observation.
  • Work samples `are artifacts related to a learning experience that provide evidence of performance. Students' writing samples are particularly helpful in evaluating students' achievements.
  • Assessments are used by teachers before, during, and after learning experiences to help them make instructional decisions and evaluate students. Standardized tests provide score reports that indicate student performance in alignment with the purpose of the test. However, most assessments are developed by teachers.
  • Interviews and conferences are used to discuss learning experiences and ask clarifying questions related to an experience. These methods of data collection do not provide artifacts for analysis, therefore teachers must use anecdotal records, rubrics, checklists, or scales as a record of the experience.
  • Surveys are used to examine thoughts and feelings related to a learning experience. Typically, surveys are used in conjunction with rating scales.
  • Journals are a written reflection of a learning experience that contains anecdotal notes, as well as an analysis of thoughts, feelings, reactions, questions, and insights related to the learning experience.

Organizing Data

I've got my data, now what? At the end of the data collection timeline, teachers need to look at all of the data in search of patterns. Often, there will be outliers to typical patterns of learning that also need to be considered, but usually, teachers are able to generalize learning patterns by looking at a few key points. Quantitative, or numerical data, can be broken down using statistical terms. What do the measures of central tendency tell you? Using the mean, median, and mode, education professionals are able to conclude what is typical or normal. How much variation exists within the range of data? By looking at the way scores are clustered, the teacher is able to conclude information about consistency and variability. Qualitative data is more subjective, but can be compared to quantitative data to infer reasons behind the scores.

Displaying Data and Drawing Conclusions

Once patterns are established, teachers are able to determine the best way to display data.

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