By: Renaissance Professional Development Team
This article is a follow up to the Facebook live held by the Renaissance Professional Development team on the 16th of September. Head to our Facebook page to watch the video!
In this Facebook live we discussed collecting data about students Mathematical abilities and how to apply such data in the classroom.
What is data?
Data can be defined as ‘facts or information, especially when examined and used to find out things or to make decisions’ . Our team of coaches run sessions with schools every day and in these sessions we find we are talking about student data every day. It is a topic that comes up regularly and is certainly something that teachers and other school staff are using on a regular basis, often without even realizing it. Often, the case can be that staff know that the data is out there, but it can overwhelming to decide where to find it or once it’s generated, what to do with it.
How do we find and collect data?
There are so many different ways to collect data and various types of data we can collect. Successful use of data is about identifying what you need and then finding time effective and easy to manage ways to collect it.
The central purpose for the collection and analysis of data is to improve the learning of your students. There are other benefits to collecting data though, teachers, principals and parents all need to be knowledgeable about the learning and be able to support it.
We’ve brought together in one handy list some popular and effective ways of collecting data about your students:
Observational Data – informal observations, outward and visible signs of student learning, interactions between student and teacher and student and student .
Formative Data – assessment for learning – using evidence about students’ knowledge and skills to inform teaching. This usually occurs throughout the teaching and learning process to clarify student learning and understanding. It can include quizzes, questioning, answer drills and yields different data to summative assessment.
External Data and Student Files – this can come from a variety of different sources including transition information, Best Start programs, past reports, counsellors and learning support.
Student Reported Data – often one of the most effective but least utilised, student reported data allows students to track their own progress and accomplishments of ability, giving them more agency. This can include checklists, graphing results from pop quizzes and tests and data walls that focus on a single set of foundational skills like “I can count to 20” or “I know my 5 Times Tables” 
Summative Data – Whilst summative assessment data is often used for broader reasons such as looking at overall school, state or country success, it’s important to remember the role of such assessments for use in the classroom . Summative data, also thought of as assessment of learning – uses evidence of students’ learning to assess achievement against outcomes and standards. This usually occurs at defined points during a unit of work, term or semester and may be used to grade students and can include exams, projects, norm-referenced tests and end of unit assessments . This can be an indicator of the effectiveness of the teaching of material and the student’s ability to comprehend that level of information. Excellent examples of ways to collect Summative Data include our own programs, Star Reading and Star Maths.
What do we do with data once we have it?
One of the most common questions that arises from teachers is “I have this data, what do I do with it” and this is certainly something of a reoccurring theme in the research as well. Callingham (2010) found that teachers generally are well equipped and able to identify their students’ needs from both their formative and summative assessments throughout the year. However, the gaps emerged with what to do with this information . There certainly isn’t one answer that is applicable to every teacher in every setting.
Programs like Star Maths and Freckle support teachers to integrate the information that you receive from both summative and formative assessments. An example may be the instructional planning report that is available in Star Maths. The student instructional planning report provides skill areas for each student in the class to work on, based on the way in which they’ve performed in the summative Star Maths assessment. As teacher could also use the class instructional planning report to group their students together based on abilities and assign different tasks to each group based on the skill areas
Assessment will often provide insights on gaps in knowledge. This can in turn be used to decide on targeted teaching strategies. Identifying what students had the most difficulty with allows the teacher to formulate activities or explicit teaching to address these gaps .
Any kind of assessment undertaken that provides diagnostic information to teachers about their students’ performance in mathematics topics should have purpose. The information is useful to address common errors and misconceptions as well as to aid planning and programming of future learning. We can use this data to address key issues students’ mathematical understanding and develop appropriate quality-teaching approaches .
 “Oxford Learners Dictonary,” 30th September 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/data?q=data. T. E. Team, “Collecting Data in the Classroom: A Teachers Guide,” [Online]. Available: https://resilienteducator.com/classroom-resources/collecting-data-in-the-classroom-a-teachers-guide/. [Accessed 30 September 2020].
 J. Dabell, “Re-evaluating the place for summative assessment in the classroom,” 2018 May 2018. [Online]. Available: https://mathsnoproblem.com/blog/classroom-assessment/summative-assessment-in-the-classroom/. [Accessed 30 September 2020].
 R. Callingham, “Mathematics assessment in primary classrooms: Making it count,” Melbourne, 2010.
 P. White and J. Anderson, “Teachers Use of National Test Data to Focus on Numeracy Instruction,” in AAMT and MERGA, 2011.
 G. Matters, “Using Data to Support Learning in Schools: Students, teachers, systems,” Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne, 2006.