2019 EDU Talks: Data for improvement — Kara Jackson



and now I'd like to invite Kara Jackson up to the purple rug title her talk data for improvement first of all I just want to say I'm so inspired by hearing everyone's stories today this is going to be about data and so I think we could all agree we live in an age of data there's big data I just learned their small data their data bases there's data breaches I now am reminded on my iPhone how much screen time I engage in I can see how many steps I walked not as nothing as many as I should um you can see your heart rate you can see your calories you burned etc etc the point is we are at a time where we are just constantly being provided with data and I think from some folks perspectives inundated by data I don't know about you but I often feel like this it's also amazing when you do a Google search for images like swimming and data drowning under data I mean all of the the ways in which data is just on top of us in many many ways and this is alive and well in education so schools have become hotbeds of data generation there's a tendon Stata there's data about suspensions there's data about students performance and assess em in various subject matters like mathematics which is what I focus on and I think on their own it's not that all data is bad or that these data are not useful just like data from your personal phone they can be useful however I think there's a lot of evidence now that the data that we're primarily being given in schools is really has been designed for accountability purposes as folks at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of teaching have argued most of these kinds of data are not that useful when you're trying to improve what's happening between teachers and students on a day to day basis when you're really trying to get at the core of schooling what's the heart what's the daily work that we do I've had the privilege of partnering with a number of folks teachers coaches school leaders central leaders in several districts across the country for a good ten years or so and these folks are really trying to fundamentally improve what happens in middle grades math classrooms they want these classrooms to be places in which students are investigating novel problems they're using Mathematica mathematics to investigate issues that are personally meaningful they are sharing solution strategies these students are coming to see themselves as people who do mathematics they're also seeing their peers as people who do mathematics and more generally just as people who have meaningful and worthwhile ideas that we should all be listening to and doing that kind of work really trying to fundamentally transform what's happening in math classrooms is really hard work it's hard work in part because it runs counter to how mathematics has operated in most US schools for decades it requires learning on the part of everyone not just students but teachers coaches school leaders and so forth and our partners routinely said and the data we have it doesn't really help us do that kind of work and so with them in collaboration we said well it seems like it's not the idea that data is always bad we do want information about what's happening could we try to design some alternative forms of data and so with partners who are really trying to work on one facet of a math instruction improving the kinds of discussions the kids are having we said well could we try to design something that would give us information about that they could actually help us figure out when we make a change in instruction does it make a difference from students perspective could we use that to track and see do these kinds of changes accumulate into some sort of improvement overall and so what we ended up doing was designing student surveys they take about a minute to complete that are given to kids at the end of a discussion kids fill it out online or paper-and-pencil and they answer questions like these what was the purpose of discussion today did you feel comfortable sharing an idea today did listening to other students improve your own thinking did you have trouble making sense of other students ideas today I just want to pause for a moment and just note what it means to actually kind of take students perspectives on what's happening in a classroom and treat that as an authentic window into teaching and as a genuine form of data that we can use to make our practice better teachers and coaches have been using these data to plan for instruction to try and see hey we tried this today what happened did it make a difference from students perspectives district leaders have been using these data to be able to see what's going on inside different classrooms across grade levels across schools but not for accountability purposes for the purposes of actually reflecting on their own work and thinking what can we be doing different so they've used these data to make decisions about changing the curriculum guides they've used these data to make decisions about how do they allocate resources for professional development I don't think any data is magical and I don't think these data are magical they have to be embedded in really smart routines and paired with really important professional learning um but I do think trying to imagine we need information other alternative kinds of information that can really contribute to engaging in the renewal work the cap started us off with thinking about where as I do think these alternative forms of data are possible I think they have to also be embedded in a culture of learning where teaching is truly treated as an intellectual activity and in which everyone is putting their practice kind of on the table to say what's going on in my practice what do I want to change what are ways in which I can imagine and try things differently I think it's in those cases that we can actually genuinely use data for improvement you

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