1. George

    Disagree…should I just post to a blog as an argument?

    I agree with your post but it doesn’t address this particular instance.

  2. Child-Driven and Data-Driven; Can you be both?
    It is a topic worth discussing. I teach struggling readers. The data the school reported was the number of sight words known by a student. – It’s data driven. This data led reading teachers have students recite sight words – despite one 7-year-old child reading on a level B.
    I don’t have a problem with recording the data. I do have a problem when only one component of reading becomes the priority, at the expense of everything else.

  3. Javier de Santiago

    I agree with you that there is a place for data in education and that it’s imperative that it’s used to “guide” your instruction and not “Drive”. That’s why I particularly like the term that you used “Child drive, evidence-informed.” Currently I’m having a difficult time – more than I thought I would- getting teachers to understand that a quiz does not have to be analyzed just to give a grade. They seem to not understand that a Google Form quiz can be used simply as a formative assessment to guide their next steps. The reality is that today teachers have access to many tools that can help with the collection of data but if that data is simply reported in grade books teachers are missing the point of data.

    • Julie

      But don’t you think the term data-informed is stagnant? Being informed of the data isn’t enough. Data needs action.

      I prefer the term used in the blog…child-driven, evidence informed which is included of the data, observations, etc.

  4. Steven Thompson

    This is a paradigm shift for me. I am not going to say data-driven. I am going to say child driven and evidenced informed from here on out. I am going to have my teachers read this article and discuss it at our staff meeting. I don’t think it’s anti-data at all. I am still going to use data, data is a good servant but a horrible master. Data has a role to play. I think about myself I don’t know any of the data from my grade school years and I managed to get a clear teaching credential, a clear administrative services credential and I have been an administrator for ten years. My fourth grade language arts test scores didn’t play a very signifigant role in my accomplishments and I am pretty sure my son when he is my age won’t be combing through his grade school math and ela data to determine his next career move Great post!

  5. Hey Pal,

    I am totally with you on this one.

    Here’s an example of what this looks like in action: For years, we’ve “disaggregated our test score data” at our opening staff meeting. We all look at pie charts and bar graphs and try to identify trends and patterns that we can learn from so that we can “move from good to great.”

    Every single time, I say things like, “I can see that we have some students who are struggling, but I have no idea who they are. Wouldn’t it be great if we looked at names of students during these meetings, too? Then we’d know who we need to reach out to and spend time with!”

    But nothing ever changes. Our goal isn’t to move kids forward. Our goal is to move scores forward. That’s warped as hell.

    Even when we celebrate, our celebrations are data — not student — centric. “Hooray! We went from 73.5% of our students who were college and career ready to 74.7%! There’s PROOF that our hard work is all worthwhile!”

    Talk about an uninspiring crock.

    Imagine how powerful that same conversation would be if we put a picture up of a student who really had made progress thanks to the hard work of a teacher or a teaching team. I’d leave that meeting inspired and ready to own my own role in moving kids forward.

    But if my job is to move data forward, I’m disconnected.

    Anyway — thanks for calling this out. It drives me nuts.


  6. Jeanne M. Spiller

    If our goal is to move kids forward and we actually do move them forward, the benefit (not the focus) is that our scores move forward as well. I don’t think it’s one OR the other…it’s one AND the other. I really believe we can be both child and data-driven. We should examine the data (evidence) and then dig deeper to determine exactly what students need. I love the terms child-driven and data-informed and agree that they communicate what we are trying to accomplish more accurately. However, it doesn’t matter to me what you call it. What really matters is that teams of teachers are committed to student improvement, growth and achievement. I believe we can set goals focused on overall grade-level, team, district or school improvement, and still focus on one kid at a time to achieve our goal. I would hate to see a bunch of people who really are doing this right to feel like they aren’t because they use the wrong terms or occasionally celebrate team, district or school progress.

    • George

      Jeanne…I have mentioned the term “data-driven” in many talks that I have given to teachers and administrators. When I mention it to a group of mostly teachers, I hear loud groans. Administrators, not so much. I am curious your thoughts on this. This it not a one off; it has been a constant since I have been talking about it. Would love your thoughts.

    • Susan Conley

      It does matter what you call it. The terms you use, the language you speak when discussing the minds and abilities of children in schools directly drives and sustains the culture and climate of your school. These words can stifle or transform the campus experience, for leaders, teachers, and students.

  7. I have to slightly disagree, particularly with the short answer. Qualitative data is indeed learning driven. Research informed from complex learning processes indeed can be both learning and data-driven. Educators doing ethnographic action research are the way to bridge these perceived disconnects.

  8. George (and Bill), this is a really good post. Thank you. Somewhere in the midst of education reform the term data became inextricably linked to numbers and I think in some ways it actually diminishes morale for teaching and learning. Instead of taking an expansionist view of evidence that is less measurable, we treat data as reductionist and number-driven. Why do we do this?– after all, evidence/data can come in many, many forms.

    Teaching by its very nature is empirical overload. We are collecting evidence of student interest or disinterest from facial expressions; we are assessing the morale of a classroom, the ‘feel’ of a room when an activity is tried out– and we are intuitively responding to subtle empirical shifts in student attention. These existential experiences in class are evidence-rich and serve as some of the best conversations topics between teachers I have ever had. We need more of them, now.

    And, Bill, to your point: ” If you want kids to wrestle with meaningful objectives, you are going to have to back off your demands that everything be measurable in some way, shape or form.” I completely, utterly agree. This is an ethical choice here. I have a philosophy background and have started a blog on Big Questions which, essentially, speaks to exactly what you are talking about. If we want kids to think deeply, critically and without fear, we are going to have to acknowledge that precise measurement of learning is problematic. But what we LOSE in the ability to measure learning precisely we GAIN back in our capacity to experience joy in learning, for learning’s sake. There is much room in the world for both approaches.

    thank you again

    • Great examples Dan! As a researcher watching this important conversation, it is interesting to see how educators can call out the reductionist nature of traditional conceptions of evidence, yet seem to feel powerless against it.

  9. Travis Showers

    I have rewritten this comment about a dozen times as I read and reread the post and comments. Part of my issue is that, as people have mentioned, it is semantics, and the other part is that I feel like there is a vilification of the science of education that mirrors that of areas such as climate change and pollution. This leads to some, though not all, people to adopt a mindset of, “My personal beliefs are more important than the collection and analysis of data (or evidence, or whatever you want to call it)”.
    Can we be child driven without vilifying data? Can we celebrate student growth (success, evolution, metamorphosis, take your pick) while being able to share data (evidence, knowledge breadcrumbs, growth footprints, etc) that supports that progress?
    I feel that we are in the midst of a testing mess because we as teachers did not do a convincing job of showing our students or the public that progress is being made. Like it or not, we have issues and problems that are not going to be solved just by being inspired by the successes. I love to be inspired, but why can’t numbers be a part of that? Why can’t we use the numbers (and the names and pictures if we need to as Bill mentioned) to help tell the story, along with the joy and passion? Why do we have to strip out the science in order to see the art?
    We celebrate innovators for their accomplishments, often pointing out the they did not do school well, but I would be willing to say that many, if not all, of those innovators understand the importance of data along with passion. They understand that you do have to track progress, gather data to prove or disprove a hypothesis, utilized information in order to lead to that inspirational moment. More importantly, data showed them the success in the “failures”, and allowed them to adjust, modify, recreate, and try again. If we don’t use data for that what do we use?

    • George

      As you read in the post, data is not bad, but being DRIVEN by it, is wrong with students. There are far too many students who have learned to master a test (for the sake of being data driven), who do not see value in learning on their own.

      Data and evidence is great for informing practice, but it is not our end goal. Many students are brilliant but did poor academically. Do we forsake their gifts because it doesn’t fit into the numbers we want?

      Again, using data is not wrong. Being driven by it is where my issue lies.

      • What about letting the student-centering drive the data? I advocate for using practices as the data. One shortcoming of “best practices” is that they are perceived as isolated and highly situated, and thus, rarely considered as replicable data. Systematically flipping this orientation so that the practices inform the data is a relatively new complexity oriented approach.

      • Yes, it is not that data/evidence is bad at all. It is when the data becomes so reductionist that it doesn’t serve to inspire adults or students forward to learn in meaningful ways. It makes the process of learning too mechanistic. That is when it becomes an issue. So, yes Travis, there can be a balance– I just think we are in an era where the type of data being collected is crowding out other types of evidence which would inspire better discussions about teaching and learning.

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