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Using Data: Data Inquiry Cycles

I have the data. Now what?

It's one thing to determine the areas in which your students are struggling. It's another thing all together to figure out what to do about it. Looking at data once or twice a year isn't enough. Using data to improve student achievement requires a commitment to ongoing cycles of data analysis, action planning, collecting evidence, and using it to adjust instruction. Monitor and adjust.. Monitor and adjust... You've heard that one before, right?

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. John F. Kennedy

Learning Target

I can explain how teachers analyze and act upon data as part of a data inquiry cycle.

View: Data Inquiry Cycle

Imagine you just stepped into your grade level data team meeting. In front of you, you have the data from your writing benchmark assessment. 

Make a list. What are the key moves you and your team could take to ensure that student achievement is different six weeks from now?

View the Data Inquiry Cycle graphic below. Where do the ideas on your list fit into this cycle?

This graphic is focused on what teachers do. 

  • How could school leaders engage in or support this work? 
  • What role could students play in the data inquiry cycle?
  • In terms of student achievement, what is the benefit of analyzing and acting on data as a part of a cycle?

EL Education, 2015.

Try It: Analyzing Data 

Want to get a sense of the power of analyzing data as a team? Build a data inquiry team with two or three colleagues and try out a modified ATLAS protocol with data from another school.  Download the data and rubric from this page. 

Review: Acting on Data

Analyzing data is an important first step. However, the real impact on student achievement comes when teachers create an action plan and then use it to guide instruction, collect ongoing formative data, and adjust to meet the needs of students.

Strong action plans address four key questions: 

  1. What skill or content will I teach? 
  2. How will I teach it? 
  3. When will I teach it? 
  4. What evidence will I collect to know if my students are learning the skill or content?

There is no “right” way to action plan. Below are a variety of action planning templates.  Do these plans address the key questions? How would you modify them? Which plan do you think would work best for you? Why? 

Borrow or modify one of these plans from schools we’ve worked with or create your own.

Download from this page:

  • RMSEL: Action Plan email.pdf: This is an actual action plan written as a result of looking at the data above.
  • Capital City: Data Action Plan Template
  • EPIC: Five Week Mastery Action Plan
  • Explore: Data Results Note-catcher 

Dig Deeper

Case Study- Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL): The data and rubrics used in the Atlas protocol were drawn from the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning.  Read more about the process, structures they put in place, lessons learned and results. What evidence do you see of the components of the self-assessment? 

Atlas Protocol: This protocol can be used for looking at data sets or student work. It supports the team in describing and interpreting the data before moving into discussion about implications for classroom practice. 

Data Driven Dialog: This protocol builds awareness and understanding of the participant’s viewpoints, beliefs, and assumptions about data while suspending judgments.

Results Meeting Protocol: This protocol supports teams in analyzing students’ strengths and challenges and then brainstorming possible next steps and reaching consensus on an action plan.

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

Return to the Data Inquiry Cycle.

  1. Select data you could analyze and act upon to improve student achievement. Start small! Something like a unit test is perfect. 
  2. Make a plan. How will you (ideally with your team) use the Data Inquiry Cycle to analyze and act upon data? Be as concrete as possible. When will you do it? What tools will you use? What outcomes do you hope to achieve? 
  3. Ask for help! Is there a way the instructional leaders at your school can support you? Let them know. 

For School Leaders...

Return to the Data Inquiry Cycle. 

  1. Take stock. What structures do you currently have in place at your school to support this work? 
  2. Make revisions. What modifications could you make to the schedule, professional learning time, or use of personnel to create more time for this work? What could you let go of?

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Created By

EL Education

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