Educators are now being inundated with products that can collect data in the classroom, but the question remains: Is it the right data? And following that, are teachers able to use it to improve student learning? Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work for Teachers and Students, a new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, surveyed and observed educators to examine digital tools that help teachers collect and use data and offer recommendations for product developers on improving the tools. According to the report, two-thirds of teachers (67 percent) say they are not fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the data or the tools for working with data.
Key Issues with Current Tools
- Overwhelming, with large amounts of data from disparate sources making it challenging to separate the signal from the noise.
- Incompatible with one another, requiring time-consuming, manual entry to put data to use.
- Inconsistent in their ability to report data and the level of detail provided.
- Too slow to provide information in time to modify instruction in meaningful ways.
The report makes several recommendations for product developers, including:
- Working with school leaders to develop better ways to support teachers, as well as parents and students, while introducing new products.
- Using the data-driven instructional model (assess/analyze/ pivot) to discuss with teachers where existing data procedures and tools support—or fail to support—student learning.
- Recognizing and addressing longstanding concerns about student privacy and security in the development and implementation of tools that handle student data. Developers should use existing best practices to ensure the security of data.
- Using standard approaches to ensure the open exchange of data among different tools, so that teachers can focus on teaching instead of time-consuming data management and aggregation.
- Developing tools that do not just report what has happened, but also use current and historical performance data to anticipate student learning trajectories and personalize instruction based on each student’s performance.
Read the report, Teachers Know Best: Making Data Work for Teachers and Students, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (June 2015).