“Data Deluge” – how educators use data for deeper learning


Declo Junior High’s professional development work is designed by the numbers. Teachers collaborate each Monday after school and discuss strategies, interventions, and accommodations for students using Silverback Learning Solution’s Mileposts data platform. This software system is the framework for DJHS teachers’ work on a daily basis, and for the 8th Grade Team, creates a data portfolio that serves to drive better instruction for individual students.

The focus for discussion at the latest Monday Grade Level Team Meeting was “how to make student interventions a consistent, collaborative process to leverage student learning.”

According to DJHS’s Principal Scott Muir, “We’re taking baby steps. But for those of us who are ready right out of the chute, today is exciting work.”

The team is using Silverback’s software to document intervention strategies for what they deem their “Tracker Students.” Norma Kunau is the lead teacher on the project and she sees the data as essential for “guiding teachers and teams toward meaningful instruction, NOT toward more testing.” Kunau is adamant about the use of formative assessment data for the betterment of instruction.

According to DJHS teachers, the “Tracker Students” are 12 students they’ve selected who aren’t qualified for an IEP but are failing classes, not attending school, or struggling for other reasons. Each teacher is responsible for a certain number of students and developing interventions specific to those students’ individual needs.

For instance, Student A uses a “Tracker” tool, which for this student, is a folder for work each day. It’s divided into two pockets. One pocket is for complete work and one for incomplete work. Student A needs to check his folder off at the end of each day. The “Tracker Folder” is an accommodation and intervention tool and is being used for six weeks. The narrative in Mileposts for the intervention strategy reads, “Inconsistent use of daily folder check. Some improvement in homework grades.”

Using “interventions” for DJHS teachers is as easy as that. And, they believe it’s making a difference. When the Monday Team Meeting came to a close, Kunau laughed, “Sometimes I think the wheels on our bus are all going round and round. That’s a good thing!

Making content explicit – It’s all in the Math and the 8th grade Pre-Algebra class at Declo Junior High School is busy doing the numbers.

“My math class bombed the quiz last week. So today is a day for re-teaching and working backwards.” In her backwards-teaching-approach, Darrington’s students draw a “cookie equation” on large butcher-sized pieces of paper. Groups of students have to form a consensus about the equation and must carefully model the equation using chips on their table. Once Darrington hears the logic behind the students’ groupings of chips and the equation solutions, students can move ahead in the process to the next steps, and make final drafts of their equations. As a means for accountability and assessment, students present their equations and logic to the class.

This is, as Darrington points out, a process used by her Mathematical Thinking for Instruction coach at Boise State University, and uses strategies that fall under the it instruction.”

According to research, “Explicit Instruction shares similar goals with other approaches to teaching (e.g., constructivist, holistic, or student centered). These goals include teaching students to enjoy and be competent at reading, writing, and math; to understand what they read and how math works; and to apply their skills in meaningful ways.” And that is exactly what Darrington’s lessons accomplished.

“Explicit Instruction is another way of saying effective, meaningful direct teaching.”

What Explicit Instruction is What Explicit Instruction is not
Explicit Instruction is skill based, but students are active participants in the learning process. Explicit Instruction is not skill and drill.
Explicit Instruction is holistic. For example, teachers can use Explicit Instruction to teach everything that is included in “literacy” (i.e., decoding, comprehension, spelling, and the writing process) Explicit Instruction is not just used to teach isolated facts and procedures.
Explicit Instruction integrates smaller learning units into meaningful wholes Explicit Instruction does not teach basic skills in isolation from meaningful contexts.
Explicit Instruction is developmentally appropriate. Instruction is tailored specifically to students’ learning and attentional needs Explicit Instruction is not “one size fits all”.
The teacher constantly monitors understanding to make sure students are deriving meaning from instruction. Explicit Instruction is not rote
Explicit Instruction is used in diverse contexts and curricular areas. Explicit Instruction is not basic skills only
Students like it because they are learning! Explicit Instruction is not boring and alienating
Students are cognitively engaged throughout the learning encounter.  They have opportunities throughout the lesson to self-monitor and direct their own learning and participation. Explicit Instruction is not all teacher directed
Silverback and Idaho Leads work together to empower educators in Idaho. Thank you to Idaho Leads for first publishing this article in their December 2015 newsletter. You can find the original post here. 

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Posted: March 28th, 2016