Teachers should know better than anyone else how their students learn and what their students know. And in this time of letting the students control their own learning, the teacher should still know more than the student as to how each student learns, and what every student knows.
If teachers rely solely upon daily hand raising, weekly snap quizzes, and pre- and post-tests for data, they are missing a lot. Some teachers will have less or more student information than others, and most may still be in the traditional numbers associated with letter grades, or with rubrics tasks. In reality, those percentages to letters meant very little, and words like improving and phrases like moving toward achievement said very little as well. These, while making mid and end-term marking easier, often left parents listening to stories at parent conferences, and students unaware of how they were really doing daily in an understandable and concrete way.
If you are a school leader charged with teacher observations and evaluation, or an educator teaching daily, you should be looking primarily for one thing. How many students are actively participating in lessons? That’s easy data collection, and can be done in one class time by just observing. In many cases, you’ll discover that far fewer students are actively participating than should be. In many observations I’ve done, the total number of students interacting averages 3 out of a class of 25 or so. And those 3 students aren’t actively interacting or participating more than once or twice at most in a 40-minute class. It’s an easy observation, but says a lot.
Now, what takes more time is figure out and plan how to engage more, and more students, until all are participating—not just once per class—but throughout the entirety of the class. If the walkthrough observation strategy just keys in on that one thing—how many students are actively engaged, and for how long, then the follow-up conversations between leader/observer and educator would be extraordinarily good learning to action plans for both—and benefit all students. Future class observations for those idea strategies could be very measurable as well, just by observing.
While hands and shout-out participation is still applicable in class, a bit of technology could increase the positive outcome, as well as the ultimate goal for results while mining daily individual student achievement. It’s more organized and faster, too. Whether you call it formative assessment or feedback to learning, it should be a daily lesson goal. Technology can help all teachers do it, and all students benefit by allowing them to participate often throughout class time. Again, educators need to know what students know, and how they learn; administrators need to know that, too, as well as how teachers can amplify engagement to get there. The bottom line is that students should never be in doubt that they have control of their own learning, or that they really know what they know. There is no reason this can’t happen 100 percent of the time in each class, every day of each school year. Learning stories are fine, but backing them up with data as well as concrete and understandable daily feedback is no match for hand raising and relying on memory.