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Using Data: Data Culture

What's culture got to do with it?

In order to use data effectively in schools, we must be intentional about creating the right culture around it. A no-blame data culture that emphasizes safety and collaboration requires a growth mindset and relational trust. When all members of the group believe that ALL people can grow, change, and improve their craft, then looking at data is not about pointing fingers, but about finding solutions.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter Drucker

Learning Target

I can describe the elements of a safe, collaborative, “no-blame” data culture in which accountability for achievement is shared by all.

Review: Stages of Growth

While adopting a data-driven instructional model, there may be several reactions to the shift in culture, conversations, and accountability.  Review the stages charted below and answer the following questions:

  1.  Where are you and your staff on this matrix?
  2. How can you get to the next stage?

Trimble, S., Gay, A., & Matthews, J. (2005 May). "Using Test Score Data to Focus Instruction."Middle School Journal. Courtesy of

Review: Growth Mindset

Establishing a “no-blame” data culture relies on all members of the community embracing a growth mindset about all members of the community, including the students and adults.
Test your own growth mindset here

Then, examine the graphic below and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?
  2. Why is a growth mindset necessary for adults who are analyzing classroom data?

"Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset" Graphic by Nigel Holmes; from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., copyright (c) 2006 by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. Used by permission of Random house, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Read: Growth Mindset in a Data-Driven Culture

Read the discourse of an educator with a growth mindset versus one without: Growth Mindset in a Data-Driven Culture. 

  1. What do you notice about your language and that of your colleagues? Is it more growth-oriented or more fixed?
  2. How can you embrace the language of a growth mindset more often?

Watch: Critical Friends: Looking at Student Work

Another key component to a safe, “no-blame” data culture is a strong sense of relational trust between all members of the school staff. Read this overview of relational trust. Then, watch this Teaching Channel  video and consider the following questions: 

  1. How does relational trust at this school allow staff to successfully engage in this type of work?
  2. What role did the protocol play in creating a productive, no-blame culture? What other school structures are in place that helped build this culture?
  3. What can you do at your school to help develop the relational trust necessary to have effective meetings as explained in the document above and seen in the video?

Dig Deeper

The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success: Watch this video to learn more about how to develop the growth mindset necessary to create a “no-blame” data culture.
Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making: Read pages 33-38 of the Institute of Education Sciences’ recommendations on how to make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement in the section “Recommendation 4. Provide Supports that Foster a Data-driven Culture within the School.”

Synthesize & Take Action

Our Learning Target: I can describe the elements of a safe, collaborative, “no-blame” data culture in which accountability for achievement is shared by teachers, leaders and students.

For Teachers...

  1. Are there current obstacles to your school’s ability to create a safe “no-blame” data culture? If so, what concrete steps will you take to initiate change?

For School Leaders...

  1. What is your vision for successful school-wide data use? What concrete steps will you take to get there?
  2. How will you foster a “no-blame” data-driven culture within the school? How will you maintain this culture?
  3. What potential roadblocks do you foresee, and how will you address them?

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EL Education

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