I’m a Teacher not a Data Analyst: Five Easy Steps Towards Making Data-Based Teaching Decisions

By: Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, BCBA-D
Published: March 7, 2018
RethinkEd, Together We Power Potential

The educational system values and uses data to inform everything from the evaluation of individual students and entire school districts to educator’s performance-based pay and the success of curriculum. Teachers play a role in every single one of those decisions, yet teachers are often not comfortable with data analysis. In fact, 72% of districts cited lack of teacher preparation as a barrier to increased use of data systems. With so many benefits of digital data collection (think less time on IEP documentation!) it is vital that teachers, specifically special educators, start increasing their understanding of data-based decision-making.

Here are 5 simple steps you can make towards becoming a data analyst AND a better teacher:

  1. Write measurable goals and objectives
  2. Develop a data collection system and collect data
  3. Represent the data visually (usually with a graph)
  4. Evaluate the data
  5. Adjust instruction as guided by the data

Step 3 is an important one: Represent the data visually (usually with a graph)

It is difficult to analyze data if it is not represented visually. Graphs help define what is happening. For example, graph one instantly demonstrates the progress and learning a student is making.

graph blog 1
RethinkEd Graph 1

In the graph below, we can quickly determine that the students’ performance is variable and learning really isn’t occurring. With graphs you can evaluate the data (step 4) and adjust instruction (step 5) as guided by the data to better meet student needs. In this below example, the teacher can look at the instructional experience the student is having and discern what is inhibiting his learning.

graph blog 2
RethinkEd Graph 2

Graph your data – become a data analyst!

About the Author

Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, BCBA-D Executive Director of Proof Positive: Autism Wellbeing Alliance

Executive Director of Proof Positive: Autism Wellbeing Alliance

Patricia has a passion for education and advocacy and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are fully included in society. Her personal mission is to offer the support that makes it possible for people with disabilities to lead meaningful, happy and productive lives. In her former role as Vice President of Professional Services at Rethink, she worked to ensure products are implemented effectively, promoting quality outcomes for individuals living with disabilities. Prior to joining RethinkEd, Patricia was the National Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals one of the largest social service providers to those living with autism.

Patricia began her career as a special educator and has provided consultative services to educators and healthcare providers. Wright’s expertise as an educator and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst inform her individualized approach to creating effective intervention plans. She knows that early diagnosis and intervention offer the best outcomes but is a proponent of treatment at any age. Everyone has the ability to learn. Patricia frequently presents at conferences and is been invited to deliver workshops and presentations nationally and internationally. She is a member of the Organization for Autism Research’s Scientific Council and has served on the Executive Committee for the Friends of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Patricia completed her PhD and MPH at the University of Hawaii with a research focus on educator utilization of evidence-based practices and health care access for people with disabilities. Her MA was awarded from San Francisco State University.

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