As teachers become more familiar with data-driven instruction, they are making decisions about what and how they teach based on the information gathered from their students. In other words, teachers first find out what their students know and what they do not know, and then determine how best to bridge that gap.
How Are Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation Different?
During the process of gathering information for effective planning and instruction, the words measurement, assessment and evaluation are often used interchangeably. These words, however, have significantly different meanings.
The word measurement, as it applies to education, is not substantially different from when it is used in any other field. It simply means determining the attributes or dimensions of an object, skill or knowledge. We use common objects in the physical world to measure, such as tape measures, scales and meters. These measurement tools are held to standards and can be used to obtain reliable results. When used properly, they accurately gather data for educators and administrators.
Some standard measurements in education are raw scores, percentile ranks and standard scores.
One of the primary measurement tools in education is the assessment. Teachers gather information by giving tests, conducting interviews and monitoring behavior. The assessment should be carefully prepared and administered to ensure its reliability and validity. In other words, an assessment must provide consistent results and it must measure what it claims to measure.
Creating valid and reliable assessments is critical to accurately measuring educational data. Evaluating the information gathered, however, is equally important to the effective use of the information for instruction.
In education, evaluation is the process of using the measurements gathered in the assessments. Teachers use this information to judge the relationship between what was intended by the instruction and what was learned. They evaluate the information gathered to determine what students know and understand, how far they have progressed and how fast, and how their scores and progress compare to those of other students.
Why Are Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation Important in Education?
According to educator and author, Graham Nuthall, in his book The Hidden Lives of Learners, “In most of the classrooms we have studied, each student already knows about 40-50% of what the teacher is teaching.” The goal of data-driven instruction is to avoid teaching students what they already know and teach what they do not know in a way the students will best respond to.
For the same reason, educators and administrators understand that assessing students and evaluating the results must be ongoing and frequent. Scheduled assessments are important to the process, but teachers must also be prepared to re-assess students, even if informally, when they sense students are either bored with the daily lesson or frustrated by material they are not prepared for. Using the measurements of these intermittent formative assessments, teachers can fine-tune instruction to meet the needs of their students on a daily and weekly basis.
Why Is Data-Driven Instruction So Effective?
Accurately measuring student progress with reliable assessments and then evaluating the information to make instruction more efficient, effective and interesting is what data-driven instruction is all about. Educators who are willing to make thoughtful and intentional changes in instruction based on more than the next chapter in the textbook find higher student engagement and more highly motivated students.
In fact, when students are included in the evaluation process, they are more likely to be self-motivated. Students who see the results of their work only on the quarterly or semester report card or the high-stakes testing report are often discouraged or deflated, knowing that the score is a permanent record of their past achievement.
When students are informed about the results of more frequent formative assessments and can see how they have improved or where they need to improve, they more easily see the value of investing time and energy in their daily lessons and projects.
In the Master of Science in Educational Leadership online program offered by St. Thomas University, Professor Scott E. Gillig teaches a class called Educational Measurement. In this class, students are introduced “to elements of assessment that are essential to good teaching. It provides students with an understanding of the role of assessment in the instructional process,” including the proper evaluation of assessments and standardized tests, and how to make better use of the data in their daily classroom instruction.
Data-driven instruction, using accurate measurements, appropriate assessments and in-depth evaluation, is changing the way we view tests and instruction, as well as the way we communicate information to both students and families. Teachers who have a clear understanding of how and why these issues are important will find these changes give them a better understanding of their students and better opportunities to help their students achieve academic success.
Learn more about St. Thomas University’s online Master of Science in Educational Leadership program.
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ASCD: The Art and Science of Teaching / When Students Track Their Progress