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You have new data, now what?

As educators, we routinely reflect upon the progress students have made to inform upcoming instructional decisions. The start of a new school year is filled with assessments to help teachers determine students’ learning profiles and capture baseline scores, but the midpoint of the year is a time for a more targeted evaluation of student progress.

While those end-of-year assessments may be months away, teachers know that January is prime time for covering the content essential to their courses. It is at this time when effective progress monitoring strategies can help both teachers and students identify areas of growth and those still in need of improvement. Consider the following approaches in using data to drive your mid-year conferences.

Measure Skill Mastery at the Macro Level (Admin to Admin, Principal, or Instructional Coach)

Whether you’re the Director of Curriculum or an Instructional Coach, it’s imperative to have objective, reliable data to ground your conversations about student performance. Use assessment data that fairly measures eligible content in the target grade level/course, with clear lines drawn between skill areas being assessed.

It’s important to acknowledge that there will be gaps in the data, as teachers can’t be expected to cover a year’s worth of content by January. However, this mid-year reflection could lay the foundation for a potential future discussion around reorganizing the curricular sequence. Consider these questions as you evaluate your data:

  1. Did this assessment appropriately measure proficiency in the targeted area?
  2. What current areas of strength and weakness did the data reflect?
  3. In what ways can we leverage a multidisciplinary approach to covering these skills?

Carving out time for teachers across disciplines to meet and plan is a challenge, but doing so will validate your faculty’s expertise and the need for a multifaceted approach. Be prepared to assist in strategies to address overlapping skills, and be willing to point teachers in the direction of trusted resources if needed. For example, if students are struggling with citing credible sources, share a resource like the Source Credibility Guide (crafted by veteran teachers on the Turnitin Curriculum Team) that can be used in any discipline.

Compare Apples to Apples (Admin/Coach to Teacher, Grade-level, or Data Teams)

Discussing data with colleagues can yield a deeper analysis and more creative solutions than reviewing it alone. First and foremost, be sure the data you’re analyzing is consistent; it should measure new content against the same performance expectations each time.

When evaluating writing progress, this can be especially challenging, but innovative tools like the Class Report from Turnitin’s Revision Assistant can instantly measure student writing progress over multiple assignments, all aligned to consistent rubric expectations. Using this or another reliable report, familiarize yourself with the most current benchmarking data, looking for surprising gaps in skill mastery or other identifiable patterns. Then, meet with colleagues in your department or grade level, or on your data team, to share objective observations about the data. Consider these questions as a guide for team-level discussions:

  1. What did the data show are current areas of strength and weakness? What gaps did you expect to see in the data?
  2. What instructional strategies can we implement this month to best suit the areas of weakness?
  3. In what ways can we share best practices among colleagues, and in what areas do we need additional resources?

Keep an open mind when looking for areas where - although they’ve been covered - the data shows students would benefit from additional review. For instance, if students are struggling with proper paraphrasing of source-based evidence, try some of the activities in this Paraphrasing Pack for a quick review.

Communicate Progress and Set Goals (Teacher to Student)

With all of the data-reporting that teachers and administrators are required to do, we must remember that students benefit from reviewing this information, too. Progress monitoring conferences provide a platform for students to be both accountable for and empowered to affect their growth in the classroom.

Be purposeful in the data points you choose to share, focusing students on the progress that was made from the original baseline scores. For instance, viewing the Draft History in Revision Assistant provides students and teachers with a visual timeline of student writing growth for each assignment. Not only do students receive formative guidance with every draft they submit, but both students and teachers can clearly trace the progress that was made as the essay grows in strength for each trait of the rubric.

Ask them to reflect on areas where they feel they have grown that may not be evident in the data, and how they can demonstrate that growth in the future. Consider asking students to respond to reflection questions such as these during a conference:

  1. What are my current areas of strength, and where have I demonstrated growth?
  2. What areas could benefit from some guidance? What areas could use improvement?
  3. What are two skills I will focus on improving this month, and how will I demonstrate improvement?

Guiding students through a self-reflection and involving them in the goal-setting process reinforces the effective behaviors we hope they carry with them into their post-secondary work and future careers.

Remember that the midpoint in the year is a time to reflect upon progress made and revise instructional decisions as needed. If we commit to dedicating time toward a purposeful review of data, collaborating to set reasonable goals, and sharing best practices for instruction, we will position students for skill mastery and success.


Explore Revision Assistant’s instant writing feedback and reporting capabilities with this special free trial access. For more ideas on how to use data with students and teachers, check out 5 Tips to Make the Most Out of Student Writing Data